Teen market as tough as ever as Top of the Pops holds on to number one

By Colin Crummy

BBC’s Top of the Pops held on as market leader in the teen
entertainment sector despite the continuing decline of its namesake TV
show and fierce competition from rival Smash Hits!

Since going fortnightly in April, in direct competition with Smash
Hits!, Top of the Pops has suffered a 35 per cent drop in year-on-year
sales. But it still outsells the Emap title, shifting 140,192 compared
to Smash Hits!’s 120,541 copies per issue.

Top of the Pops
publisher Alfie Lewis said there was concern that the TV show, which
moved to a Sunday evening slot on BBC2, had got older in content but
that The Saturday Show featured 45 minutes of more teenspecific Top of
the Pops.

He said: “All the negative comment about the TV show isn’t really on our readers’ radar.

“As long as we can provide them with a really cool pop magazine they’re not too bothered with TV ratings.”

Emap’s
Smash Hits! was the only title to remain steady in the market, with
It’s Hot!, Sneak and TV Hits! all taking a drop in sales of between 10
and 15 per cent.

Lewis said: “I think all magazines are waiting
for another one to blink and give up. It would be useful for the more
successful magazines like Smash Hits! and Top of the Pops if the weaker
ones that aren’t quite selling as many would give up.”

Smash
Hits! editor Lara Palamoudian attributed the title’s success to its
broad remit, which now features celebrities from outside pop music. “We
know that teenagers consume music in many different ways and we have
ensured that we have evolved to cater for their needs,” she said.

BBC’s It’s Hot! is to relaunch in September, targeting a younger readership with added TV and pop cartoons and photo stories.

Meanwhile,
the toughness of the teen lifestyle market was highlighted as
CosmoGirl!’s short-lived tri-weekly format was blamed for a sales drop
down 18 per cent from last year.

The National Magazine Company
title has reverted back to its monthly format this month after sales
fell from 213,311 to 163,602 year on year.

Three temporary staff have lost their contracts at the magazine.

Group
publishing director Jan Adcock said: “Unfortunately, expectations were
not met and despite selling the same number of copies of the magazine
in absolute terms, the increased frequency has diluted the average
figure.”

Julie Harris, publisher of Sugar, the market leader with
sales of 285,082, said that CosmoGirl!’s losses and the continuing
decline of Shout and Mizz meant the sector had become a battle between
the Hachette Filipacchi title and Emap’s Bliss, which was the only
title to increase sales.

Bliss editor Lisa Smosarski said the key
battle was over retaining readership despite increased competition from
adult celebrity titles like Closer and Heat.

She added: “The
year-on-year increase shows there’s a demand for teen-specific media,
because although you can dabble with adult magazines they aren’t really
for 15-year-old girls – there’s issues and content which aren’t
relevant.”

Harris said the teenagers were reading women’s titles like Glamour and B earlier, which also affected sales.

“There’s
no doubt the teen market is the most difficult to operate in – girls
are growing up much faster, they’re literally hopping straight out of
teen magazines into the likes of B, Company and Glamour,” she said.

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