Latest ABC figures show sales up 6.4 per cent year-on-year, leaving newspapers in the shade

By Alyson Fixter

At the PPA Magazines 2005 conference in May, newspaper pundit and
publisher Andrew Neil took the surprising step of urging papers to
become “more like magazines” to survive.

Three months later, as newspaper circulations continue to fall, the
latest round of magazine ABC figures reinforce his message, showing a
period that has been marked by far more winners than losers.

Overall,
the market has moved into its sixth year of continuous growth, total
circulation is up 6.4 per cent year-on-year and for the first time,
readers are spending more than £2bn a year on magazines.

The
season’s big-budget launches – Emap’s Grazia (£16m), Condé Nast’s Easy
Living (£17m) and IPC’s double whammy of Pick Me Up (£6m) and TV Easy
(£10m) – have all come in with on-target debut ABCs.

Grazia has
been credited with creating a whole new sector, men’s mag Loaded has
gained 17,000 readers in six months following a relaunch, and celebrity
weeklies such as Now, Closer and Heat are enjoying soaring success.

The
music magazines sector has also been boosted due to renewed
cross-generational interest in bands, buoyed up by the rise of the iPod
The fastest growing magazine, in percentage terms, was the BBC’s What
To Wear magazine, which, luckily for the corporation, was saved from
the white paper cull of earlier this year and recorded a 50.4 per cent
circulation increase year-on-year.

Other big winners included
Hachette’s B, up 30.6 per cent, the BBC’s children’s titles such as
Balamory and Disney, many showing increases of over 30 per cent, and
lads’ weekly Zoo, up 30.1 per cent year-on-year.

Those who didn’t
profit from the boom, however, included the National Magazine Company’s
She, which is to rebrand itself as a homes title and has sacked all its
staff, with a fall of 18.2 per cent.

Computing titles are in
disarray, with the Nintendo, multi-format, PC games, Sony and X-Box
sub-sectors all down, and teen mags are, to use a technical term
favoured in the industry, buggered.

As Alfie Lewis, publisher of
Top Of The Pops put it, in a sentiment perhaps shared by all those who
are watching their circulations slip away: “It would be useful for the
more successful magazines… if the weaker ones that aren’t selling
quite as many would give up.”

So what is there to look forward to
in the next six months? Loaded claims its circulation will continue to
rise, while rivals say that once the novelty of a price cut wears off,
readers will drift away. A second women’s weekly glossy seems highly
likely, there will be continuing price wars in the TV listings market
and the women’s monthlies will all have to up their games to stave off
the continuing threat, not only from Grazia and its copycats, but from
the celebrity weeklies.

Hachette’s launch Psychologies, if
successful, could start a whole new trend for focusing on what women
are like, rather than what they look like. Well, that’s what the
publisher says The definite certainty is that the PRs will continue to
spin, the rivals will continue to bitch and there will be plenty more
playground taunts from the men’s mags to come.

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