MEDIA: Why the gloss is coming off the monthy magazine market

It is odd that the circulation woes and battles of national newspapers hog all the limelight when so many magazines are clearly struggling.

It is odd that the circulation woes and battles of national

newspapers hog all the limelight when so many magazines are clearly

struggling.



The latest six-monthly circulation figures just published reveal how

horrible life has become for even the most feted and glossiest of

titles.



Marie Claire is battling in a crowded middle market with sales down nine

per cent, year-on-year. Good Housekeeping is selling eight per cent

fewer copies. At the top end of the market publishers, such as Conde

Nast, congratulate themselves on basically standing still, and pin hopes

for cautious growth on spinning off niche titles styled for distinct

groups, such as GQ Active, which is devoted to male fitness.



It is something BBC Magazines grasped even more quickly. ’People refuse

to be boxed into traditional categories,’ says managing director Peter

Phippen. Speaking to editors of women’s monthlies, I’ve found they

concede that updating the mix of fashion, beauty and lifestyle is

difficult.



What new things are there to say?



Further, almost all magazines are suffering from the expansion of

newspapers.



In the past eight years TV listings magazines have been forced to fight

in a declining market as TV supplements become standard newspaper

offerings.



But the attack has intensified. Do you need to buy a style magazine if

the Guardian’s Space supplement every Friday tells you how to furnish

your new flat? Even more alarmingly, the pace-setting new Times’

Saturday magazine has swapped clumsy heat-set newsprint for

sophisticated glossy pages. This trend is being studied by other

newspaper groups.



There must also be a link between declining sales of downmarket women’s

titles and red top tabloids. IPC’s six established weeklies continue to

shed sales. Not all those lost readers are upgrading to middle-market

papers or magazines. I suspect improved daytime TV and choice of radio

is helping to undermine sales. This is why it is noisier titles such as

New Woman that are doing well. They have their finger on the pulse of

raucous real women, taking a lead from the blokes’ titles, which march

on.



Emap’s FHM put on a staggering 76 per cent, Loaded 36 per cent. These

titles exude energy, information and ideas. FHM has All Saints as its

current cover story: after the Brits it’s exactly what men - and many

women - want to read about. What is astonishing about so many titles

caught in the middle market is the way they bribe readers with add on

goodies.



The March Elle has a free ’hot 100 catwalk guide’, Options a romantic

novel, while Company, has its guide to the 50 most eligible

bachelors.



They know they have very little reader loyalty.



I’ve never understood the logic of monthly magazines as everyday life

speeds up. Do we need so many? Their roots are in another age.



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