Jane Ennis always hoped that one day her Prince would come.
"I go along thinking I’ve outsold OK! and Hello!, then when the ABCs come around I always find I haven’t."
So said the editor of Now, in an interview with Press Gazette last August. Well, this time the ABCs have come around and Ennis finds that she has a perfectly Charming set of results.
What she’s known for some time is finally down there in the black and white of the circulation tables – that in the white hot competition of the celebrity weekly magazine market, her title is ahead of its two wealthier competitors for the first time.
While the cheque-waving sisters dolled up their exclamation marks and forked out thousands to be at the latest society weddings, Ennis and her Cinderella team have had to take a different tack. Without sufficient funds to go the ball, they’ve had to rely on that old-fashioned virtue, journalistic endeavour, to get access to the stars and to the stories that their readers want. That’s meant no copy approval. No picture approval. No deals with the stars. No deals with the stars’ PRs.
"The more we sell, the more they stand still, the more bulks they will have to do to overcome us," Ennis also said. What she knew then was that her team already had the edge on the battleground where it really mattered – on the news-stand. That’s where the reader has to make the crucial decision about which title they want to part with their hard-earned cash for. Of course Now’s more attractive cover price (£1 compared with £1.85) is a great help here.
But those tricks previously used by her competitors – the bulk deals and the ‘sampling exercises’ – have started to catch up with them. Now’s 552,744 are almost entirely ‘clean’ (just 600 of them are not actively purchased). Compare this with Hello!’s 27,000 regular bulk sales. Or the 60,000 copies that OK! offloads to non-paying customers overseas. A staggering 33 per cent of OK!’s 486,858 circulation are not actively purchased.
We should similarly pay tribute to Emap’s Heat, whose 355,407 copies are 100 per cent actively purchased. Despite its flop of a launch, the company laudably stuck with it – and with editor Mark Frith.
So successful has been the transformation from pumpkin to golden carriage, this week it recorded its third consecutive triple-digit circulation rise thanks largely to the same clever and prudent editing that has proved so successful for Ennis.
As she’s proved, even if you’ve only got Buttons, you can still beat bulks and buy-ups.