Magazine ABCs - what the July to December 2013 figures tell us


The Carat press team peers behind the figures and analyses the latest round of magazine ABCs.

  • Summary – by Zoe Bale
It’s encouraging that in the interests of greater transparency, the July – December 2013 ABC results report the print and digital editions, as mandatory.
The ABC results provide a valuable glimpse into the performance of the print brands, although still not in their entirety. Whilst the inclusion of digital editions into the headline press figure is positive, the figures do not include fully interactive tablet editions, nor mobile, website or other brand extensions such as events. Therefore whilst it’s a step closer to analysing the total brand footprint, we’re still not entirely there yet.
In this period we have also seen the launch of several new digital innovations. Bauer’s The Debrief launched this year, a digital only magazine which is arguably aiming to fill the void left by the closure of More Magazine to cater for shopping, style and news in a convergent world where consumers expect quick, digestible and current news and trends. Never Underdressed, another launch from Shortlist Media, is another example of how publishers are innovating in the digital sphere and something we expect to see more of this year.
The announcement that Newsweek is bringing back its print edition, that Hearst are launching a British version of Town & Country and the news that Net-a-Porter are launching a luxury printed product, Porter Magazine, to support their hugely successful online shopping portal, all go to prove that the printed product still has a valuable role to play. 
The ABC results show us that there is still a huge appetite for print brands but the bottom line is that consumers want to be more in control of how they consume content. It doesn’t really matter what platform the content is printed on, as long as we can reach consumers how they like, when they like and that the content is what they want to read. Continued investment in different platforms and brand extensions that promote loyalty amongst existing readers, whilst inspiring new audiences, is pivotal.
  • Women’s Monthlies – by Celine Tapp
There were mixed fortunes in the women’s monthly market, which is down 7.8% overall year-on-year, but only down 1.3% period-on-period, revealing another testing time for magazines. 
Publishers are going through a period of adjustment; ensuring readers still buy into the printed format, but then also encouraging them to embrace new platforms and new ways of consuming the content – all against the backdrop of a difficult economy and less spending power from the consumer. 
There is great news for Women’s Health, up +7.6% and Woman & Home, up +0.8%, who both posted YOY increases across print and digital within this fragile market.  A-list covers and continued investment on Glamour’s digital platforms meant their figure was down -3.1 YOY, but up 2.5% POP. They are also seeing a steady increase in both digital and tablet performance across iPad, Kindle Fire and Android. Women’s Health is going from strength to strength and capitalising on declining readers of Health & Fitness and those that had to jump ship after the closure of Zest last year.  
At the other end of the spectrum, Company has seen only a slight decrease of 2.9% POP, but yet another double-digit decrease of -31.8% YOY. This is a tough market to target and this title is feeling the effects of an incredibly fickle audience.
We have seen static figures in the luxury market with ELLE still investing heavily in its 360 approach and Marie Claire soon to follow with a Chinese edition later this year. Harpers Bazaar have made an executive decision to change their distribution model and become less reliant on the traditional big retailers and supermarkets. The V&A is now their third biggest retailer focusing on more targeted, intelligent outlets. Due to this shift in focus, they have seen a more affluent consumer purchasing Bazaar and the AB profile increased by 9% in the last NRS data.
  • Traditional Weeklies – by Charis Jellett
The total reach of the traditional weekly market is still huge with a total circulation of 3,346,252, remaining 100% actively purchased. The July – December ABC results have only seen a marginal decline (0.6% period-on-period), despite being down 5.3% year-on-year.
Take a Break has once again retained the top spot of the biggest women’s magazine in the country (696,507) and the fourth largest actively purchased title in the country - despite a slight decline of 3.3% POP.
Woman’s Own has seen continued success with increases both POP (2.2%) and YOY (1.2%). Real People has also seen a POP growth in circulation of 6.8% as well a static YOY figure. This growth could be influenced by Hearst bagging the title with other publications, so it will be interesting to see if this sampling exercise helps further growth in the next ABC period.
The real life part of this sector has experienced a steeper decline (-15% YOY) but still reaches 1.75 million a week, with one in 10 women reading a real life title. The drop in the overall market has been largely driven by the closure of Full House and the poor performance of Pep Publishing’s Love it! posting a decrease of 27.8% YOY.
The increases posted in this sector, combined with small declines, demonstrate the strength of magazine readership in the older market, both in traditional and digital. As older audiences are becoming more and more lucrative to advertisers, we would expect this sector’s success and reach to continue.
  • Women’s Weeklies – by Katie Tompsett 
Women’s Weeklies have taken a significant hit but are listening to their readers and making all the right moves.
There is no shying away from the fact that this market has seen a significant decline of nearly 9% year-on-year in this ABC release. In an era where celebrity gossip and content is so readily accessible on other platforms - the giant Mail Online boasting it can get a celebrity picture with story online within 30 seconds of the shot being taken, and celebrities playing out their own stories directly to their Twitter followings - these real time offerings pose a real challenge for this market.
But it is a challenge the market is keen to take on. IPC took the biggest hit in this market, with Look and Now posting YOY declines of 17% and 18% respectively, but the publisher has already begun to investigate this and is undertaking research to find out what it is that readers want from a celebrity title in this new market. Looking more closely at Look’s POP numbers, the decline is a far lesser 7% - an indication of their latter change to focus on celebrity only from a fashion angle taking effect perhaps. 
Reveal was similarly affected with a headline 16% decline YOY but again looking more closely at the POP figures the decline is a more steady 2.4% - an indication perhaps that the launch of their ‘early edition’ available to download three days ahead of the print edition has proved its worth.
There have also been success stories from both Star and Stylist posting YoY increases of 3.9% and 0.6%. Stylist’s free distribution model (unique to this market) and its consistent performance in the ABCs is commendable. Stylist’s content steers almost entirely away from celebrity gossip and ‘scoops’ in favour of less time sensitive commentary and trends – this could be a model others in the market look towards in the future.
  • Men’s Lifestyle – by Nick Webb
At first glance, the men’s lifestyle magazine performance as a whole appears to be suffering. However, on further inspection, we can draw some positives.
The paid for weeklies, for example Zoo & Nuts, unfortunately remain in rapid decline. Both print titles have posted losses of over -30% year-on-year, a result which can’t have been helped by the ongoing dispute as to whether they’re suitable to be stocked in supermarkets and the decision by the Co-Op to remove them from their shelves. 
However when we include the digital editions to the headline figure, Nuts can take some comfort in seeing this figure reduce to -22.5%. This demonstrates how press is becoming ever more cross-platform in a response to changing patterns of consumer behaviour. 
With regards to the monthlies, there have been some positive results including Esquire (+4.2% POP), Men’s Health (+0.2% YOY) and How It Works (+11.8% YOY & +3.3% POP). One title worth an individual mention would be FourFourTwo, with impressive upturns of +15.9% (POP) and +0.4% (YOY). This title always performs well during this period, as it sees a dramatic increase in sales, thanks to the pre-season issue. This season was arguably the most anticipated for a considerable amount of time. This was widely due to the excitement surrounding the appointments of new managers, at top teams within the Premier League. In addition to this, football will be at the forefront of a lot of men’s minds this year, as we fast approach the World Cup.
To finish with the weekly free titles, it came as no surprise that Sport & Shortlist still continue to dominate the Men’s Lifestyle sector, in terms of circulation and reach. However even more encouraging is the fact that both titles continue to grow, posting identical increases of +0.6% YOY.
  • TV Listings – by Aideen O'Sullivan
TV Mags remain most popular TV planning tool. The TV listings market has reported a very respectable 2% growth period-on-period; its first rise since 2010 and its largest since 2005.  
2013 has been an exciting year for this market following the price war onslaught, driven by the launch and subsequent closure of TV Pick.  We saw H Bauer’s TV Choice revert back to its pre-price war cost of 45p, having previously slashed it to 20p earlier on in the year. 
In a market which is supported by a very loyal readership, aggressive cover price strategies provided a welcome boom, bringing new readers to this sector.
TV Choice reaped the rewards of the additional readers, growing sales by almost 12% year-on-year and retaining its spot as the UK’s biggest selling magazine at over 1.3m. H Bauer’s Total TV Guide did not fare as well from the price war, suffering 9.4% YOY decrease. However, they were able to turn it around in the latter half of the year, resulting in a more positive POP performance at just -0.9% decrease.
IPC’s TV portfolio struggled once again with all titles reporting decreases. Their largest circulating title, What’s On TV, saw a significant hit dropping 14% YOY. However they are still circulating over 1m copies and with a strong website, drawing in around 340k monthly unique users, their brand is still solid and in demand. Similar to Total TV Guide, IPC’s TV Times fared better in the second half of the year, securing nearly a 3% POP increase.
The Radio Times posted a 2.3% POP increase, which, although expected due to their renowned Christmas issue, is a triumph especially following a 14% price increase for the festive edition. YoY results revealed more challenging times with a 7% dip. Having also upped the cover price of their usual edition last January, readers may be choosing the free content on their website, which is attracting a large 883k unique users a month.
The TV market overall remains resilient to the digital revolution. Despite EPG’s and the growing tablet ownership, TV Weekly magazines continue to be one of the most stable ABC sectors. With titles still circulating in their millions, there is a fierce loyalty and hunger for the printed, paid for listings which, against all odds in today’s digitally dominated landscape, have remained the preferred TV planning tool.
  • Motoring – by Oliver Mountstephens
The motoring sector is still doing a fine job for advertisers, with specialist titles continuing to deliver within their niches, whilst the mass titles are able to deliver numbers and complement men’s lifestyle titles.
The sector has followed on in much the same vein as the last period – the smaller titles are performing well in niche sections of the wider market, whilst some of the more mass-focused titles have been less successful in maintaining circulations. 
After Haymarket’s shift to an annual certificate it is interesting to note their titles follow the rest of the market trend with the niche Classic & Sports Car outperforming the mass-market What Car in year on year percentage figures.
However Top Gear is bucking this mass market trend as it continues to dominate the motoring sector, with its 20th anniversary issue helping to contribute to a 1.9% growth to its combined print and digital figure. The majority of that figure is a result of an increase in users accessing the digital issues, both the PDF replica and interactive editions.
In the weekly market, Auto Express continues to outperform Autocar despite posting a small decline and increasing its cover price – it’ll be interesting to see how the rivalry develops between the titles as Auto Express moves closer to launching its free app.
Titles targeting the niche sections of the market are the strongest performing, with Octane and Classic Car following Classic & Sports Car in posting an increase in sales, showing the titles’ continued value to the industry.
  • Home Interest and Gardening - by Mitchell Droppa
There was a marginal decline in the Home Interest & Gardening sector despite some standout performers, a housing market boom and the introduction of the Government Help to Buy Scheme. 
An overall sector decline of 4% period-on-period and 2.2% year-on-year, the star title was IPC’s Style At Home, with a sixth consecutive circulation increase. Ideal Home leads the way with print circulation; however Elle Deco offers the largest print and digital combination.
IPC continue to dominate the market with their six titles, of which four had YOY increases. It’s no surprise that Style At Home, which focuses on the practical, hands-on approach to decorating, experienced both POP and YOY increases at 1.4% and 11.3% respectively. The title has taken an approach to focusing on the DIY communities via social media, a strategy which has worked for IPC owned Essentials.
Market leader remains IPCs Ideal Home, circulating 193,101 copies; the printed magazine remains core to the offering. However, when combined with the digital figure there is a YOY on increase, with digital accounting for 1,318. The multi-platform approach from the title is developing with their digital blogs – Girl About Tech and Home Shopping Spy.
In comparison to those seeking DIY and practical tips, readers seeking high end interior content from Hearst title Elle Decoration dropped 7.9% and 7.8% POP and YOY respectively. Their digital editions at 5,708 are the highest in the market. With the title celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year they have special features, events and exclusive new content planned for 2014.
Positives throughout the market can be taken from 25 Beautiful Homes up both 0.2% POP and 1.9% YOY. Grand Designs was up 1.7% POP continuing to do well with the long standing TV show, and Country Homes and Interiors also had a strong second half of 2013, up 2.7%.
In the Gardening sector, it would appear that the warm, dry summer had an impact on the sales of BBC Gardeners World during the core gardening season. A 17.4% POP decline came in a period where the title changed editors and minor editorial changes were implemented. These revisions to the product, combined with planned incentivised subscription offers should make for a positive outcome during the next set of ABCs.
  • Food – by Ross Coombes
The supermarket titles continue to lead the way in terms of scale for the food sector, with the retailer market boasting a combined circulation of over 7 million. 
The rest of the market showed relatively stable period-on-period figures, with the Immediate portfolio showing a 1% increase. The overall food sector is in a healthy position with the group being the largest across the whole print market in terms of circulation, and the year-on-year change showing a positive 3.2% increase.
The retailer titles posted minimal change year-on-year, with Asda Magazine, Tesco Magazine and Morrisons Magazine all having a fluctuation of fewer than 3%. The largest comes from Waitrose Kitchen, with an 85.1% increase YOY and 59.8% POP. However, the free in-store distribution means that these titles can reach high numbers due to the sheer numbers of consumers shopping in supermarkets every day.
BBC Good Food and Delicious, the two largest Immediate titles, had a YOY decrease of -6.2% and -9.5% respectively. However, digital platforms are booming with the Good Food website now reaching 5 million unique users every month and the GF app being the most downloaded women’s lifestyle app. The combined print and digital circulation of both titles also shows a positive picture with Good Food showing a 2.3% increase and Delicious a 1.7% increased POP for combined circulation.
The smaller titles had a relatively small change period-on-period, with Olive and Eat In showing a 2.6% and -0.9% change respectively. However, plans for new digital activity and a new look magazine present an exciting 2014 for Olive. Jamie Magazine showed an impressive POP change, with print circulation increasing 11.0% and the digital edition up 40.5%.
The introduction of five new titles and a total sector YOY increase shows that the food sector is in a healthy position. Food brands are continuing to embrace the digital marketplace and whilst subscription figures are still high for print, there is still very much an appetite for digital platforms.
  • Parenting – by Sandy Bruce
The latest set of ABC results was the first to show the current state of play in the sector following the closure of two core Parenting titles (Immediate’s Practical Parenting and Bauer’s Pregnancy & Birth) and it was always going to be difficult for the market to reassert confidence in its publications. 
An impressive growth however from Prima Baby & Pregnancy of 10.2% period-on-period and 9.3% year-on-year is the stand-out performer of the parenting market, which all in all has experienced a decline of 8.2% PoP and 14.1% YoY.
The difficulties within the parenting sector have continued with the trend of more and more baby and parenting information becoming available online or on mobile platforms for no cost. This is something that the press sector has noted over the recent years, with Prima Baby’s purchase of in 2012 being one such example, since demonstrating more than a threefold growth in unique users over the past 18 month period and an alternative revenue stream for the publisher.
Mother & Baby, the other main player in the consumer magazine parenting sector also saw declines both YoY and PoP of 11.4% and 5.3% respectively. After redesigning their content over the past 12 months to include more lifestyle, toddler, fashion and beauty editorial in the hope to extend the longevity of readership, it’s still too early to comment as to whether this effort has taken effect.
The bi-monthly Gurgle has dealt with considerable declines in circulation of 25% PoP and 32.6% YoY, again mainly down to the loss of readers to online content, and the bi-annual Emma’s Diary, distributed through GP’s offices directly to mothers, understandably has maintained a stable figure up slightly 1.6% PoP and 2.2% YoY.
Prima Baby & Pregnancy has limited the decline of the sector somewhat; however this is in part attributed to subscriptions from the closed Practical Parenting being transferred across to the title giving it buoyancy. 
The paid for figures do still suggest though that there is an appetite for content in magazine format, and it will be interesting to note how the remaining publications react to take advantage of its increasingly digitalised audience over the coming ABC period.
  • Film & Music - by Lydia Mulkeen
As Film and Music fans are inevitably a progressive, forward-looking audience, this sector has seen a natural transference from printed to digital editions. The latest ABC figures demonstrate that the desire for these brands remains high, and show how they have successfully expanded into other platforms without sacrificing content quality.
Total Film has seen a 0.7% increase in its reach, which is a successive increase from last ABC, showing continued brand growth.
Empire remains market leader with a combined reach of 145,117. Despite a 13% dip year-on-year and 10% period-on-period, we expect an increase this year with its 25th anniversary. January has already seen a complete sell out of its commemorative X-Men Magazine, as well as boosting monthly UUs by 600k in 48 hours (3.6m). Similar issues are planned for 2014, with May the official birthday issue and June covering the popular Empire Awards; both should have a positive impact on their next ABC.
Music titles continue to face difficulty with paper issues in a digital audio world, with NME and Kerrang! posting declines of 6% PoP. However, both continue to engage with audiences through events, digital extensions and major associations, e.g., NME Awards and Download. Despite the decline in printed editions, the success of brand extensions shows how influential they remain to the difficult-to-reach audiences; therefore partnerships and associations with these brands are still of massive value.
Even within Music, there has been success, with market leader RWD remaining static YoY and PoP with a combined reach of 98,806; showing the appetite for ‘expert’ opinion is still vital in a world of peer influence and social sharing.
  • Youth – by Joe Chapman
The Youth sector remains strong with a combined reach of 1,900,583. Whilst there has been a slight decline of 5.8% period-on-period and 10.9% year-on-year, the market remains an effective channel for advertisers to reach a young audience across various platforms. 
Furthermore, many publishers have experienced exponential growth in online traffic to their magazine sites and tablet versions demonstrating the continued engagement in this sector.
Egmont have had an incredibly positive ABC, with many of their titles posting increases. Go Girl (+21.9%) and Toxic (+12.8%) saw consecutive increases and recently re-launched Thomas & Friends saw a huge jump with +42.3%.
Egmont have capitalised on the mass appeal of boy bands, with their Teen market focusing heavily on One Direction, among others, which will have influenced We Love Pop’s 5% increase POP.
Redan also enjoyed success driven by the Peppa Pig phenomena. “Fun to Learn – Peppa Pig” is the market leading title with an impressive circulation (98,922) experiencing another POP increase of +13.9%. Sister title, Peppa Pig Bag O’ Fun, has the third largest circulation in the market (68,507) and has successfully launched a tablet edition. With Peppa Pig World and further extensions we expect this success to remain throughout the year.
Immediate weren’t as successful in the girl teen titles, with Top of the Pops seeing a steep decline of 25% YOY, however they saw great success with Dr Who Adventures up 16% POP, no doubt driven by the key Dr Who anniversary. 
  • News and Business – by Claire Limb
The news and business sector enjoyed another strong set of ABC results, up 0.9% period-on-period and 1.8% year-on-year. Prospect saw a 5% YoY increase, whilst The Economist saw a YOY uplift of 1.8% overall, despite a fall in print circulation. In fact, the only title to see a YOY decrease in circulation was Private Eye at just -0.3%.
New Statesman saw the strongest growth within the sector with a YOY increase of 16%. The title celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013 with two special editions, which saw sales spikes despite the L9.95 cover price (nearly three times its usual L3.50). The magazine also enjoyed a huge amount of PR surrounding their issue edited by Russell Brand, which will also have contributed to a spike in sales - the Newsnight interview promoting the issue has had 10m YouTube views. Despite only launching their digital edition in October, they have also already seen substantial growth with 441 readers per issue.
Current affairs remained hot topics in the second half of 2013, with Nelson Mandela’s death and the on-going crises in Syria and Egypt. The strong performance of this sector reflects the UK’s continued appetite for political analysis, and suggests that print remains one of the most trusted sources of information.
Digital editions are further strengthening the offering of this sector, with some titles starting to pull in significant numbers. With significant growth of tablet ownership predicted for 2014, it will be interesting to see how these digital offerings will grow in the next 12 months.
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