Innovators make the most of women's mag market

The run-up to this period’s ABCs was marked by the axing of two former Emap titles, NW (formerly called New Woman) and First, both of which struggled to stand apart in crowded markets.

The ABC figures for the last six months of 2007 continue to bear out the need for innovation. Magazines with unique propositions like Hachette Filipacchi‘s Psychologies and Bauer Consumer Media’s Grazia continued to grow. Finding your niche and holding onto it has become a major theme in the women’s market across the various sectors.

In women’s lifestyle monthlies, Condé Nast’s Glamour retained the top spot with an actively purchased figure of 550,016, down 6.5 per cent year on year. It was engaged in a battle with Natmags’ Cosmopolitan. Both were sold for £2 aree various points in the last six months. Cosmopolitan’s figure was 460,276, up one per cent year on year. IPC’s Marie Claire, which like New Woman, was launched in 1988, had an actively purchased circulation figure of 308,368.

Jackie Newcombe, MD of IPC Southbank, said titles were closing because they lacked that unique selling point. ‘If you don’t really have a strong sense of your core-brand proposition, you are going to struggle.

‘I think there are a few magazines that are unfortunately going to go the way of New Woman.”

The real growth occurred at the mature end of the market. Another solid performance for market leader Good Housekeeping, which stayed flat at 464, 041 was part of a strong showing in the 40-plus age range. IPC’s Woman & Home was up 6.3 per cent and the slightly younger-targeted Essentials was up 29.8 per cent, although this included some frees and bulks.

Good Housekeeping’s 200,000-plus subscriber base has been a model for other Natmags titles to work off, as She’s 48,883 subscription sales showed. Jessica Burley, Natmags MD, said: ‘We have probably dedicated more money to subscriptions than ever before and that’s probably the biggest change in our strategy.”

In fashion, Conde Nast’s Vogue stayed strong at the top of a market that has become increasingly tight with the relaunch of Harper’s Bazaar and redesign of Elle, both of which are looking to bite into Vogue’s lucrative high-end advertising territory.

In a turnaround, after years of hammering the monthly market, the weeklies are starting to hurt. Closer and Heat both took hits of more than 10 per cent year on year. In real life, Take a Break hung on to its one million plus circulation, while the newer entrants into the market started to show fatigue.

All three titles launched on the back of the innovative Pick Me Up from IPC – News Magazines’ Love It!, Essential Publishing’s Full House and ACP-Natmags’ Real People – slumped dramatically. And last year’s big launch, IPC’s Look ‘settled down’rapidly to a figure of 4.2 per cent below its debut circulation of 318,907.

Natmags’ Jessicca Burley thinks that when talk turns to an economic downturn, the escapist nature of a monthly magazine becomes a more attractive proposition than a weekly read.

What’s most significant in all of this is not the closures, the sector slides or the individual growth patterns. Since Look, which took a reported £18m to launch in January 2007, no one has debuted a new title in the British women’s market.

If investment is being made, it’s in established titles. Purse strings, it appears, are being tightened.

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