Mag ABCs analysis: A solid performance

The magazine industry of recession-hit Britain appears to be holding comparitively well, according to yesterday’s figures released by ABC.

When total circulation of all the thousands of audited titles is totted up, it dropped overall by 1.9 per cent period on period and 3.8 per cent year on year.

According to final figures from magazine industry trade body the PPA, yesterday’s figures show that total average circulation for all the weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies and so on amounted to just over 657.5 million in the first six months of this year. This compares with 683.6 million in the same period a year ago.

So while the economy shrank by as much as five per cent according to some estimates – the magazine industry was rather more resilient, at least circulation-wise.

Ad income is no doubt steeply down, but so far this has not led to a bonfire of the titles.

The magazine market remains as ever a volatile place, at the mercy of wider trends in society that can be difficult to predict.

The paid-for men’s market appears to be largely in freefall, with the lads’ mag phenomenom apparently well past its peak.

But buoyed up by the two mass-circulation free weeklies Sport and Shortlist, even that worst-hit of all magazine sectors dropped by a less than cataclysmic 4.7 per cent year-on-year from a total circulation of 2,238,934 a year ago to 2,133,731 in the first six months of this year.

Maxim and Arena may be no more. But the fact that total magazine circulation has declined by only two per cent suggests that there has not been a widespread extinction of titles across the board.

It seems that overall, magazines which provide useful information seemed to fare better than ones which sell more on pure entertainment.

So Men’s Health, rising 2.1 per cent to just over 250,000 – packed with tips as it is on how to improve the male physique – overtook general interest men’s mag FHM.

Despite the dreadful financial climate, magazines which help their readers navigate the business jungle did pretty well.

The Economist rose 2.6 per cent in the UK to 187.341 and MoneyWeek rose 15.3 per cent to 41,282.

The Which? magazine titles, based as they are on in-depth independent product reviews, are the ultimate example of news you can use. They aren’t ABC audited, but separate figures revealed earlier this week showed overall subscribers up 2.5 per cent to more than 1.1 million.

New magazine launches have been few and far between over the last year. Those brave enough to launch into the current choppy waters were rewarded with solid openings, but none have set the world alight.

Jamie Oliver’s cookery mag Jamie launched with 75,369; children’s TV spin-off Ben 10 hit 70,012 and BBC Worldwide’s Lonely Planet sold an average of 40,702.

Like everyone else in the journalism business, the magazine industry is in a period of digging-in before it ventures forth on to the sunny uplands of recovery.

But in view of the terrible state of the wider economy, yesterday’s figures suggest that it is as good a place as any to ride out this recession.

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