Twice a year, when the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) releases
its official figures, consumer magazine publishers hole up for a few
hours to work out how to put the most positive spin on their
For some it’s easy. Take Emap’s monthly men’s title FHM, which for
January to June 1998 has seen its sales hit 775,451 (up 53.6% year on
year) - more than IPC’s Marie Claire and The National Magazine Company’s
Company combined. One rival comments: ’If you had said five years ago
that a men’s magazine could sell that many you would have been locked
up.’ Then there’s OK! (up 50.4% to 214,162) and the Sony PlayStation
titles, which accounted for all of the top six fastest-growing titles in
the latest round of results.
For many publishers, however, the post-ABC period is all about damage
limitation. IPC, for example, has had notable successes in Loaded (up
20%) and What’s on TV? (up 2.8%). But it has been hard pushed to find
anything good to say about the performance of its women’s weeklies.
With Woman (692,491), Woman’s Own (653,432), Woman’s Weekly (609,557)
and Woman’s Realm (221,838) shedding almost 200,000 sales a week between
them (about 8%), IPC was forced to celebrate ’reductions in sales
decline’ and look to the future for improvements.
Linda Lancaster-Gaye, women’s weeklies group managing director, insists
that ’the opportunity for growth is real and significant ... because our
magazines are perfectly placed to be the voice of women in Britain’. TV
campaigns have been pencilled in for Woman as well as two other IPC
weeklies, Now (306,501) and Chat (482,143), ’which halved its sales
decline’ to 3%.
Making a real assessment of IPC’s performance in the weeklies market is
complicated by the fact that rival Bauer’s top-selling titles, Bella and
Take a Break, do not subscribe to the ABCs. However, if IPC’s own
estimates are correct, these have also slipped by between 6%-7% year on
year - suggesting the malaise is affecting the whole sector. Underlining
the point, Gruner & Jahr’s weekly Best now sells 494,775 (down
While the women’s weeklies, with an overall decline of 5% year on year,
are clearly in trouble, so too are the traditional women’s general
interest titles. IPC’s trio of Essentials (down 7.2%), Family Circle
(down 14.4%) and Woman & Home (down 9.3%), fared particularly badly.
BBC’s Good Food, which at one time was selling about 500,000, also fell
Carl White, publisher, attributes this to ’intense competition from the
supermarket titles’ - most notably Sainsbury’s The Magazine, which rose
2.7% to 370,862.
Other than Sainsbury’s, the best performers in this sector were G&J’s
Prima, which leapt 6.1% to 531,678, and NatMags’ mid-age glossy Good
Housekeeping, which held steady at 440,721. NatMags has high hopes that
Good Housekeeping can go on to build its circulation as the population
of the UK ages.
Despite the black spots, the Periodical Publisher’s Association came up
with a bullish assessment of the consumer magazine sector’s overall
performance. ’Constant paid-for circulation (excluding increases from
new titles) increased by 1% year on year,’ says the PPA. ’Overall,
circulations have grown nearly 17% in the past five years.’
Rise and fall
Such figures do little, however, to highlight the very uneven nature of
the marketplace. Massive gains in the men’s and computer games sectors
have offset losses in other areas. In addition, the numerous new entries
into the market encourage existing titles to beef up their editorial and
promotional offering. This may keep consumers buying magazines, but it
puts increasing financial pressure on publishers and reduces brand
loyalty in the marketplace.
While men are buying more magazines and women fewer, the TV listings
market has remained relatively stable (down 0.9%). IPC again had mixed
fortunes. What’s On TV? rose to 1,750,167 (up 2.8%), creating a 350,000
lead over BBC Worldwide’s Radio Times (down 0.4% at 1,400,095). The
downside for IPC was a 6.4% drop for TV Times which now stands at
Kathy Day, IPC publishing director of the TV weeklies, remains
confident: ’We are delighted. The decline is bottoming out. We have
invested heavily in creating a better product and it will grow
To be fair, IPC’s policy is to maintain market share and it has done so.
For the future, sponsorships of BAFTA and the National Television Awards
are key elements in building up the brand again.
Of the more specialist areas, one of the most active has been the
parenting sector where new launches Right Start, Baby Mag and M from
NatMags have arrived in the past year. Existing titles are suffering as
a result. Our Baby, Pregnancy & Birth and Babycare & Pregnancy all
suffered sharp falls.
The rest of the specialist publishing areas have met with varied
In the music market, Emap’s Q remains the clear leader with an 8.5% rise
to 203,865, while IPC’s NME and Melody Maker both experienced
double-digit decline. Emap’s Mojo (75,084) overtook its sister title
Select (74,525) and the independently launched Ministry established
itself with a creditable debut ABC of 61,395.
Music on the whole was up, but not as much as film titles which posted a
20% rise year on year as a market. Emap’s Empire was up 1.4% at 166,123,
while most of the growth came from the arrival of Uncut and the
increased sales at Total Film.
The specialist sector which suffered most was football. Poor
performances from Manchester United and Liverpool last season may
explain why club titles like Manchester United Magazine and The Official
Liverpool FC lost 25% of their circulation. In what was generally a
bloodbath, only Haymarket’s FourFourTwo has anything to smile about,
with a 21% jump to 85,389. Ironically, while soccer lost 25% of its
market, motor publishers scored a 25% gain.
Auto Express was a big winner with 43% growth to 91,723.
While all of the above sectors are of interest to the media
planner/buyer community, it would be wrong to overlook the growing band
of customer titles which pack the top end of the ABC hit chart. The
Redwood-published AA Magazine still sits on the top of the tree with 3.9
Behind it are the likes of The Somerfield Magazine, Debenhams, Saga
Magazine, Ford Magazine and The Vauxhall Magazine. The fastest-growing
customer title was The BMW Magazine, which rose 42% to 172,661.
If there is a single concern for publishers, it must be the increasingly
competitive nature of the key sectors. As more titles launch, supporting
quality brands becomes more difficult. However, branding remains
essential if publishers are to continue the current growth in spin-off
titles. Aside from FHM Collections, Loaded Fashion and Zest for Men,
there are numerous publishers with ambitions to enter masthead
Emap chief executive Tom Moloney says as much when he warns of an
imminent slowdown in the market. ’These results are pleasing for Emap
and the magazine sector in general, but all publishers should be aware
that the market is going to tighten in the coming months. It is the
market-leading brands committed to expanding sectors rather than just
stealing share which will perform the best, and provide the best service
Women’s glossy monthlies
Magazine Publisher ABC % change
Cosmopolitan NatMags 472,263 +7.0
Marie Claire IPC 416,239 -4.3
Company NatMags 290,065 +4.4
New Woman Emap elan 281,087 +12.3
She Nat Mags 242,024 +2.5
Elle Emap elan 212,799 +1.3
Vogue Conde Nast 202,265 +1.1
Red Emap elan 190,136 n/a
NatMag’s Cosmopolitan and IPC’s Marie Claire continue to dominate the
market. But the former has extended its lead over the latter, year on
year, from 6000 to 56,000.
Terry Mansfield, NatMags’ managing director, singled out the performances
of Cosmopolitan, She (+2.5%) and sister title Company (+4.4%) as
particular highlights. ’Emap’s Red has come into the market with the
highest spend in support of a magazine that I can remember and our brands
have withstood it.’
Red’s first ABC is 190,135 - a figure with which Kath Brown, editor,
claims to be delighted. ’We have achieved a distinctive position in the
marketplace for a section of the population who were not catered for -
the 30-something modern woman with a youthful spirit.’
Red’s thunder has been stolen by sister title New Woman, which recorded
the biggest rise in the sector (12.3%), putting it within shouting
distance of Company.
The biggest drop was experienced by IPC’s Woman’s Journal (-12.1%). But
the superglossies rose slightly: Conde Nast’s Vogue (+1.1%) and Emap’s
Elle (+1.3%) are now 10,000 apart. Conde Nast’s Vanity Fair rose 0.5% to
83,743, although it is worth noting that over half of that is bulk or
Magazine Publisher ABC % change
House Beautiful NatMags 308,063 +3.5
Homes and Ideas IPC 218,619 -4.0
Homes & Antiques BBC 213,038 +11.3
Ideal Home IPC 208,480 -4.3
Country Living NatMags 180,190 +3.7
Homes & Gardens IPC 173,546 -1.3
Your Home Gruner & Jahr 170,046 n/a
House & Garden Conde Nast 163,798 -2.4
The home-interest magazine market, which is up 8% year on year, has been
given a boost by the exposure that the subject receives in TV
Along with recent launches, which have yet to be audited, there are now
20 titles in the arena.
Appropriately, it is the BBC which is benefiting most from the TV
BBC Homes & Antiques, which rose 11.3%, has overtaken IPC’s Ideal Home
for the first time. Although there is no ABC available, the BBC’s Good
Homes is also selling about 160,000.
NatMags scored success with House Beautiful, which kept the number-one
spot with a 3.5% increase to 308,063, NatMags also saw a 3.7% rise for
The picture for IPC was mixed. Its established titles, Country Homes,
Homes & Gardens, Homes and Ideas and Ideal Home, all dropped. But the
launch of Living etc and Beautiful Homes has given IPC a larger share of
The gardening market also saw a rise of 11.5% year on year. The winner is
BBC Gardeners’ World, which rose 5.3% to 375,138.
Teenage girls’ monthlies
Magazine Publisher ABC % change
Sugar Attic Futura 459,984 -3.0
Top of the Pops BBC 436,488 +3.4
Smash Hits Emap 383,191 -0.1
It’s Bliss Emap 365,668 -6.1
TV Hits Attic Futura 281,889 +3.0
Live & Kicking BBC 215,205 -7.2
19 IPC 172,104 +8.3
Shout DC Thomson 171,089 -17.7
The most competitive market of all is arguably the teenage girls’ sector.
The original baby glossy, Attic Futura’s Sugar, stayed in front despite a
3% drop in sales. Sarah Pyper, editor, blamed the decline on new
competition at the upper end of the age bracket.
Fortunately for Attic, one rival is its own recently launched B, which
posted a January-June figure of 212,444. The other title at the older end
is Emap elan’s Minx, which rose 6% to 154,321. Neither title is strictly
teen-oriented but both are picking up older teen readers.
Sugar’s rival Emap’s It’s Bliss dropped by 6%, while Emap’s new-look J17
did not post an ABC.
The biggest losers were Emap’s More (-15%) and DC Thomson’s Shout
Both are suffering from the impact of baby glossies and launches at the
IPC’s response was to reposition Mizz (younger) and 19 (older). The
latter has benefited with an 8% jump, although Mizz is now competing with
the younger targeted music and celebrity-oriented titles.
Among these, Emap’s Big was the biggest disappointment (-23%), while
Attic’s TV Hits rose slightly. Emap’s Smash Hits was stagnant at 383,191
and BBC Magazines’ Top of the Pops rose 3% to 436,488.
Computer games magazines
Magazine Publisher ABC % change
Official PlayStation Future 314,114 +113.7
PlayStation Plus Emap Images 96,795 +114.7
PlayStation Power Future 84,197 +115.6
Play Paragon 71,153 +92.7
PlayStation Pro IDG Media 70,050 +94.4
Essential PlayStation Future 64,289 +97.6
Powerstation Paragon 48,860 +51.5
The most impressive growth in the consumer market has been among computer
games titles - or more specifically, Sony-related titles. The growth of
the PlayStation platform as a mass-market product lifted the sector to
unprecedented heights. Eight of the ten fastest growers were games
titles. The top six were all Sony titles.
The runaway success is Future Publishing’s Official PlayStation Magazine,
which sells 314,114 copies with a cover gift for pounds 5.99. Titles such
as Emap Images’ PlayStation Plus and Future’s PlayStation Power have
experienced 115% growth and have driven their circulations near the
100,000 mark. Emap Images also publishes two other booming titles: The
Official Nintendo Magazine, which jumped 80% to 90,226; and CVG, which
jumped 74% to 78,976.
PC titles also did well. Fastest risers were: PC Answers (35,114, up
88%), PC Plus (117,149, up 32.7%) and PC Format (110,227 up 20.4%). All
are priced at pounds 4.99, suggesting there is still a large amount of
price elasticity in the sector.
Magazine Publisher ABC % change
FHM Emap Metro 775,451 +53.6
Loaded IPC 456,373 +20.0
Maxim Dennis 300,786 +63.0
Men’s Health Rodale Press 245,659 +30.5
Sky Emap Metro 171,101 -1.4
GQ Conde Nast 130,152 -4.0
Esquire NatMags 112,161 +20.7
The Face Wagadon 78,173 -27.7
The men’s magazine market continued its phenomenal growth, with a 26.5%
increase year on year. This market now sells 2.4 million copies a
Emap’s FHM was the main beneficiary, recording a 53% rise year on
However, the success of IPC’s Loaded (up 20%) and Dennis Publishing’s
Maxim (63%) suggest there is still room for growth in the lads’
One of the key developments among the big brands is the launch of
spin-offs. FHM has already launched a fashion title called FHM
Collections and IPC has now announced the launch of Loaded Fashion.
While the big titles keep growing, the story among the smaller magazines
is less clear-cut. Wagadon’s The Face (-27.7%) and Arena (-15.7%) both
dropped significantly. Conde Nast’s GQ was also down 4%. NatMag’s Esquire
jumped 20%, although more than 20% of its 112,161 circulation is either
bulk sales or exports. FHM has no bulks, while 3% go overseas.
The other success was Men’s Health, which rose 30% to 245,659. However,
NatMags is set to take on Men’s Health by launching Zest for Men.
This article was first published on Marketing