Knowing your magazine ABCs – An in-depth look at Jan-Jun2017

Emma Cranston & Publishing Team

With so much change, development and innovation in the market it can only be seen as a positive time for the consumer magazine sector. We have seen changes to the way sale teams are structured and also the way publishers are approaching and interacting with their consumers. However, despite all of this, overall the market has taken a slight hit in the Jan-Jun17 ABCs, falling -7.2% YoY when looking at print and digital edition numbers combined.

Of course, each market has its variances; News & Current Affairs market managed to maintain it’s positive results from 2016, with a +1.7% increase. With extensive coverage of Brexit and controversial stories around President Trump, they are not short of editorial stories to entice readers. Women’s Weeklies have really struggled within this period reporting -15.4% YoY of combined print and Digital sales. With the rise of bloggers and instant celeb gossip via platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, now is a time for these titles to look at their content and how they interact with the ever changing media habits of their audience. Following several closures in the Freemium market over the last year, the remaining titles have maintained flat circulations, with Shortlist keeping hold of its top spot within the Men’s market.

The market has seen significant and positive changes in the way publishers are working, Jul-Dec 16 was the first time we saw the full results of Hearst’s dynamic distribution and also their partnership with Lloyds and the publisher still appears to be reaping the rewards of both of these. Cosmo has remained static YoY, outshining its main competitor Glamour who saw a -7.5% drop in print sales. Further to this whilst Hearst saw their other titles Elle, Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar posting declines in their print circulation this was not to the same extent as the previous reporting period. Hearst have seen further developments following the appointment of their new CEO James Wildman in January, with imminent changes to their sales and editorial team structure, it will be next period when we see if they are able to maintain and move forward with their new strategy of putting the consumers and customers at the forefront of their business.

Further to this, the next period will align with the much anticipated launch of AMP (Audience Measurement for Publishers); which shows the true cross platform reach of each magazine brand. It will be interesting to see how publishers will embrace this and what impact this will have on publishing advertising revenues.

Women’s Weeklies

The Women’s Weeklies market has continued to decline at -10.3% YoY in combined print and digital actively purchased sales. Love It has done particularly well in this period and has seen its print actively purchased increase by +3.3% YoY. ACH publishing bought Love It from Pep publishing in August 2015 and since then have put a larger focus on their features and have included more prizes in the magazine. The title also does not have any digital offerings, which they believe has helped these figures, as the print issue is the only place people can access the content. What seems most surprising in this sector is the amount that Look has declined. The title saw a decline of -30.0% YoY. Look really need to make some strong changes in the next period to improve their offering. Other more fashion focussed titles, Hello! and OK! did see a decline, however these were only in single figures, whilst freemium title Stylist has managed to stay flat.

In good news for the market their digital actively purchased figures have increased by +51.8% YoY, which is going some way to slow the overall decline of the sector as people are accessing the content in different ways. DC Thompson’s title My Weekly has seen an impressive +208.4% YoY increase in this area; albeit from a small base. Many titles have increased their focus on digital, social and event platforms so they can continue to engage with their readers in new and surprising ways.

An additional reason for the print decline within the women’s weeklies market is due to the sector being extremely saturated. Where once it would have been common for readers to buy more than one title, as people’s budgets have shrunk and more content is freely available online, people are being more selective with the titles they buy.

TV Listings

The TV market saw no major shocks in the last period. There were many gradual declines YoY in the market overall but on the whole titles managed to limit the potential readership drops as viewers step away from traditional linear viewing and rely increasingly on ‘on demand’ services. TV Choice remains the market leader with a huge 1.2m circulation, only down -2.6% YoY. They’ve made minimal changes to the title over the past year as they stick to an editorial formula that they know their readers love.

SoapLife, which saw a steep decline last period, had a resurgence at the start of this year as the magazine saw a 4.9% YoY increase. With All About Soap closing at the back end of last year it seems likely that many of these readers migrated over to SoapLife to get their fix of Coronation Street gossip. They have also featured many issues with a price cut which has enabled them to access a more prominent place on the newsstand, crucial to a small title such as this.

Men’s Lifestyle

The Men’s Lifestyle market remained fairly static this period with a minimal decline of -2.7% YoY for combined print and digital, which is very positive when comparing against previous ABCs.

As per usual, Shortlist are still the best performer in this market reporting an impressive -0.6% YoY decline for the magazine. Within this period Shortlist ran their bi-annual fashion specials in March, which was one of their best performing issues. More recently Shortlist have introduced gaming to their editorial profile to entice new readers and also look to re-launch their website in September to ensure they are strengthening their overall portfolio.

Conde Nast’s GQ, remains the largest circulating paid for men’s title, however have reported the largest decline at -10.4% YoY. These ABC results are still positive for GQ as they have stemmed their PoP decline reporting -4.1% in print sales, which is the smallest fall in recent years. It’s not all doom and gloom for GQ as they reported impressive growth in their digital edition reporting +19.3% growth YoY. Although off a small base they are by far the largest men’s publishing brand in the digital edition market outshining their competitors. GQ have also been working on their website redesign, where they have introduced more bite size articles which they are referring to as ‘Spotify style reading models’. The publisher feel that this new design has been huge success and are going to now test this across the whole Conde Nast digital portfolio.

News & Current Affairs

The News & Current Affairs market was the shining star within the last consumer results with an overall growth of +4% YoY for print and digital editions combined. Furthermore, over half of the print titles reported an increase in circulation.  Unlike other sectors within the marketplace the news and current affairs is one of the only ones to show consecutive growth throughout the last few results. We can attribute this to the recent changes in the political market such as the American election, Brexit and most recently the general election within the UK.

The Spectator and Private Eye lead the way in this sector, with both titles reporting positive results of +8.5% YoY. Other titles that showed promising increases in circulation were The Economist, New Statesmen, News Scientist and Investors Chronicle. The digital marketplace has also reported growth of +16.5% YoY, with exceptional increases in Prospect Magazine and The Economist. Prospect now shows a sixth successive ABC increase which is underpinned by the team actively promoting subscriptions over the past 12 months both in mag and online as well as at relevant events and festivals such as the Hay Festival. Prospect’s print subscriptions and the latest audit has verified for the first time that every sitting member of parliament receives a copy of Prospect.

Overall actively purchased print copies within the UK have seen a growth of +1.7% YoY which implies consumers are still relying on these specific news brands to gain trusted information from a reliable source. With such big changes happening within the political landscape, consumers are turning to sources they feel that they can trust in order to be fully informed and up to date with current affairs.

Food & Retail

Food and Retail saw some positive results across print and digital for this period. Print actively purchased sales are down -9.3% YoY however this is not truly reflective of the market, as 5 titles are distributed freely. Once these are added it is a bit of a tastier story with a minimal drop of -3.5% YoY.

Immediate still dominate the food market, with their 4 titles, Delicious, Easy Cook, Good Food and Olive accounting for over 50% of actively purchased copies. Overall they stayed relatively static with a combined decline of -7.15% YoY. This was mainly driven by Olive who saw the largest drop in the market of -17.9% YoY. This can perhaps in part be attributed to a small cover price increase from £4.25 to £4.35, making it the most expensive food title in the market. Immediate largest title Good Food saw a small decline of -7.4% YoY actively purchased print copies. However, after a redesign by their new editor in June this year, they are hoping to gain new readers in the next period.

Jamie Oliver Magazine was the winner in this group with an increase in actively purchased copies of +16.9% YoY. Hearst took over the running of Jamie Magazine in July 2016 and since they have taken over the magazine has seen a significant increase in multi-packing, with all issues in the last period being bagged with other Hearst titles including Red and Good Housekeeping.

With the explosion of food bloggers entering the market and the growth of ‘food porn’ across social media, it is no surprise to see that the food magazine sector is suffering. None the less, publishers are aware of this and also moving in to this space, Jamie Oliver Magazines digital edition increased by +232.4% YoY actively purchased, which shows the growing appetite for this content. However, these numbers are still small and publishers will need to look at their print and digital strategies if they are to compete with such large digital players.

Health & Fitness

It is safe to say that the Health and Fitness Sector have seen healthier times, reporting -28.6% decrease YoY and -41.9% PoP. This has mainly been driven by the closure of Coach magazine in Dec 2016 and more recently, after continuous decline in circulation, Sport magazine who ceased 10 years of printing in January 2017. Both publications made up a large chunk of the overall Health & Fitness distribution, meaning the overall figures is skewed by these closures. Further to this, the majority of the titles are audited on an annual basis meaning we will have a clearer picture of where the Health & Fitness sector is heading in the next annual results.

Despite the recent closures and circulation decreases, a relatively new publication Balance has put some life back into the fitness market; it has remained almost static (+0.1% POP) and is helping towards boosting the overall circulation of the market.

Looking at print only, Hearst’s Men’s Health and Women’s Health have performed well with circulations remaining flat YoY. This success has been mainly driven the partnership with Lloyds bank which offers free subscription to their customers meaning bulk copies have increased by +27.1% POP in Men’s Health and +56.1% POP in Women’s Health. Actively purchased copies actually saw a decrease in the UK with a -16.6% POP result in Men’s Health and -8.6% POP in Women’s Heath.

Home Interest

Despite the majority of titles in the Home Interest sector recording YoY declines, the sector remained steady this period at -0.7% PoP.

Elle Decoration is the biggest success story, continuing its print and digital growth from the last period and displaying an overall YoY increase of +4.5%. Hearst’s other home interest title Country Living’s print edition has also risen by +3.1% YoY. This shows that these titles are still benefitting from Hearst’s dynamic distribution strategy, which puts these magazines directly into the hands of their audiences. On the other hand, House Beautiful who has not adopted the same model as the other Hearst titles did not fare as well as its counterparts, exhibiting the steepest overall decline of this sector at -12.5% YoY.

In a sector where all titles maintain a print-first strategy, the premium home interest market has shown great strength in its digital figures. Conde Nast’s House & Garden and World of Interiors saw the biggest YoY increases. This demonstrates that the Home Interest sector, especially the premium brands are investing heavily into their digital offerings and having more of an online presence.  House & Garden celebrated its 70th anniversary in June with a bumper issue and reaped the rewards of this special edition, displaying an overall increase of +3.7% PoP.

Time Inc.’s vast home interest collection did not fare as well as the other publishers, with all titles presenting an overall loss YoY.  Despite a complete re-vamp of their website in January, Ideal Home showcased one of the biggest overall losses this period at -9.7% YoY. Despite the results, Time Inc are continuing to invest heavily into its digital offerings, re-launching in September and if this goes well Homes & Gardens will be launching a website in 2018.

It was a mixed bag for the smaller publishers this period, following a year of uncertainty and change for the less premium titles. Your Home from Burda Media UK redeemed itself this period as the best performing title; PoP growth of +7.9%, demonstrating the demand for titles offering DIY tips and economical home decorating solutions. On the other hand, Centaur Communications had a more difficult period with their titles Period Living and Real Homes displaying a print and digital combined decrease of -13.2% and -11.8% YoY respectively.

Women’s Monthlies 

The women’s monthly market reported a decrease of -14.9% YoY across both print and digital actively purchased sales.

Hearst saw a decline across the board for both print and digital actively purchased sales, however if we look at total print only circulations these remained relative static. This in part can mainly be accredited new distribution methods such as the partnership with Lloyds bank which offers a free annual subscription a Hearst publication of choice to its customers. Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle have also benefited from the dynamic distribution method which sees free copies circulated to places of interest for its readers, this has therefore increased the bulk copies contributing to the static result for Hearst.

Good Housekeeping overall print circulation remained flat (-1.9% YoY) and Red and Prima where the only Hearst publications to see a decline in their overall print circulation; -15.1% and – 8% YoY respectively. Despite being a part of the Lloyds partnership these titles have not yet adopted the dynamic distribution strategy and therefore were not supported by a large amounts of bulk distribution.

Time Inc have followed suit by trialling a similar distribution method within Marie Claire, this method sees a free copies of the magazine distributed to its store’s, Fabled, customers when they purchase an item either online or in store. Despite seeing an overall -13.7% YoY decrease across actively purchased print and digital, Marie Claire actually reported a flat YoY total print circulation as a result of a +54.4% POP increase in bulk copies.

Although Glamour saw a -7.1% decrease YoY, they actually performed particularly well during this period seeing a +6.7% POP increase, making them the only publication to see an increase throughout this period. This can be attributed to Glamour changing their publishing strategy for 2017 which saw the brand revive their editorial to become more agile and was maximized to cement that real “me, luxury” time. The new larger size was very well received and naturally offered a more luxury feel, it was also very impactful on newsstand, this combined with the new £1 cover price has resulted in a strong ABC figure for GlamourGlamour also no longer cover-mounts any issues which demonstrates growth on the Jan-Jun 17 figures is testament to the strong editorial and new successful strategy.


There was little to report in terms of figures for this period with all motoring titles releasing annual ABC results. This now includes Immediate Media’s BBC Top Gear Magazine who previously reported 6 monthly figures, however as a business they have moved in line with the rest of the market to ensure consistency across the motoring sector and against their competitive set.

Despite BBC Top Gear Magazine maintaining the top spot for the number one monthly motors magazine, with a circulation of 68,380, the title saw the biggest decline of this sector last period. The publication is undergoing dramatic editorial changes including a change in paper stock, additional features and a change in editorial pillars so it will be interesting to see the effects of these modifications in the next release.

The motors market reaped the rewards after investing heavily in their digital offerings last year as in a bid to retain their readers that are veering away from print towards the digital space. With the growing success of this they are now concentrating on the printed product to ensure they have a strong overall package.

Dennis for example have successfully launched two print titles in the forms of CarBuyer Quarterly in October 2016 and the brand-new Enzo magazine (an independent Ferrari enthusiast’s title) which launched in July. Their title EVO was the greatest success for the sector previous period, they are continuing to invest heavily into their editorial, specifically annual features such as EVO’s ‘Get on Track’ special and ‘EVO Upgrades’ which focuses on electronic vehicles, tech and the future of motors. This is to ensure they are continuing to appeal to their existing and new audiences of influential motoring enthusiasts. Given the announcement that the government plans to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in a bid to encourage people to buy electric vehicles, we can expect to see an influx of supplements and content this nature in the next period.

Haymarket have also made significant changes to their titles What Car? and AutoCar. The classified advertising sections in both magazines has been reduced to make way for more editorial content and paper quality has increased to higher quality glossy paper. It will be interesting to see how the above design and editorial changes made to the titles, as well as their continued investment into their digital offering affects the next ABC results period.