Knowing Your Magazine ABCs Jul-Dec 2017

Emma Cranston & Publishing Team


The past 6 months have seen some positive changes to the magazine market and further development in new revenue streams and digital innovation.  Despite circulations in print falling, their digital counterparts have seen growth, demonstrating the continued desire for quality, trusted and indulgent editorial regardless of the platform that it is consumed on.

This period saw some small but significant changes to way the circulation figures are presented and reported. The main change is an update to the definition of ‘Actively Purchased’. The new measurement now includes ALL copies paid for by an individual, where’s previously any copy of the magazine sold to an individual for less than 20% of the standard cover price were excluded from this figure. The reason for this change is that publishers believe that irrelevant of price paid they see value in someone putting their hand in their pocket to receive a copy of the publication, and by definition this is ‘Actively Purchased’. They feel that these new numbers are a better reflection of the demand for their titles. The big watch out here is publications may report large increases in actively purchased figures, but these may be slightly deceiving due to the new metrics.

The latest figures showed print and digital UK actively purchased combined circulations to be down by -6.1% YoY, which was largely driven by a decline in print.  However, every market had its own journey and some weathered the storm better than others.  The Health and Fitness sector, down -36.7% on their YoY actively purchased sales overall, suffered closures through the loss of Women’s Fitness, whilst the News and Current Affairs sector took advantage of the current economic climate and kept their combined circulation flat YoY.  Women’s Weeklies continued to struggle with the immediacy of their online competition, with their combined circulation down -10.3% YoY and the Food and Retail market reaped the benefits of the worlds obsession with #food only falling by -2.2% for both print and digital combined YoY.

The effect of the influencer has become ever more apparent over the past year, with them dominating social media feeds across many of the core magazine sectors.  That coupled with a generation most familiar with Snapchat has meant that there is no better time for the magazine market to align their portfolio to their consumer needs across all platforms.  Conde Nast identified this at the back end of 2017 and as such, reduced the frequency of both Glamour and Wired to bi-annual and bi-monthly, respectively.  Glamour, which notably struggled to compete with Hearst’s dynamic distribution model in the Jan – Jun 17 ABC’s, now positions itself as a digital 1st brand with a new look beauty focus.  Their ‘Beauty Club’ launched in early 2017 and has over 50,000 members, while their ‘Beauty Festival’ event attracts top influencers, celebrities and speakers, showcasing their natural position within this market.

Events have become an increasingly popular additional revenue stream for publishers over the last couple of years. Since the launch of Hearst events space at the end of 2016 they have significantly increased investment into new and already established brand events such as our Red Smart Week and Esquire Townhouse, and most recently the launch of ‘Elle Weekender’ in November 2018. These events provide a unique platform for brands to engage with their target audiences through key passion points and in turn create a halo effect for brands to benefit through association. Hearst believe that by enhancing their audience experiences through co-creation and partnerships, brands have positively shifted perception metrics.

However, it is not just Hearst who have heavily invested in this area, Time Out Market, Stylist Live, Empire Live are all common place in the events calendar. Ultimately the demand for live experience shows no sign of abating, however Publishers are going to have to continually look to expand and keep up with what consumers want in order to make their event concepts stay ahead of the saturation curve.

In light of the ever changing media landscape, extensive research carried out by magazine trade body, Magnetic, identifies the level of trust associated with magazine brands, which in a world of fake news is more important than ever.  Magazines are deemed the most reliable source of news by 72% of the public and therefore publishers will work tirelessly to ensure this relationship is maintained across all of their touchpoints.  Trust coupled with IPA research, which shows that magazine media is becoming more effective and boosts performance through long term campaigns, leaves magazines in good stead for the year to come.

All these changes highlight magazine brands adaptability in the face of growing competition from other media. The strength of the new research, consumer’s perception of trust and a climate of brave and innovative developments from publishers will continue to make magazines an attractive proposition for brands.  It’s likely we will see a lot more transformation and innovation throughout 2018.


The women’s monthly market as a whole has seen a -5.5% YoY (and -1.3% PoP) decrease in its actively purchased circulation across print & digital combined. This result is relatively static in comparison to results from previous periods, and is likely to be attributed to the recent changes in ABC regulations.

Hearst saw widespread decline in its total actively purchased YoY however their PoP figures revealed a more positive story. Despite seeing a -1.4% YoY decrease, Good Housekeeping was up +4.4% PoP when looking at actively purchased copies, and celebrated its highest circulation in the last 10 years when looking at total circulation. The magazine celebrated its 95th anniversary last year and was featured in the top 10 most trusted brands, alongside the BBC and John Lewis, in Magnetic Media’s A Matter of Trust research conducted by MediaCom which may have contributed to its success during this period.

Harper’s Bazaar was another positive story for Hearst who saw a +3.9% PoP increase in overall circulation. This was made up of a combination of a +4.3% PoP growth in its print and digital actively purchased figures and a decline of -5.8% in its bulk copies PoP.  This shows consumers are really engaging with the brand and choosing to go out and buy the magazine. The brand celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and launched its Bazaar at Work Summit to bring together inspiring female leaders for a day of empowering talks, panel discussions and networking opportunities which has brought the brand front of mind to consumers.

Both Elle and Cosmopolitan, the leading brands in Hearst’s dynamic distribution model, saw a decline in overall circulations. Cosmopolitan showed a notable loss of -13,4% PoP, however this decrease was due to strategic decisions made by Hearst to reduce the number of traditional ‘bulk’ copies in circulation. Advertisers have previously expressed concerns in regards to ensuring that the majority of ‘free’ copies were those distributed through the dynamic distribution method. Despite this Cosmopolitan retained its position as highest circulating monthly young women’s glossy.

It was a less positive story for Time Inc who saw double digit decreases across Marie Claire and Woman & Home in their YoY actively purchased circulations, -21.2% and -10.4% respectively. Overall circulations remained more stagnant for both brands with Marie Claire actually seeing a minimal increase of +0.2% YoY. This can be attributed to them adopting a new distribution model throughout this period called ‘intelligent distribution’.  Similar to Hearst’s dynamic distribution, this new distribution method sees free copies of the magazine handed out to customers at it’s store Fabled, when they purchase an item either online or in store, this has resulted in a +21% PoP increase to their bulk copies.

Conde Nast overall remained relative static in terms of actively purchased circulation across its women’s monthly portfolio. The end of this period saw Glamour change from a monthly to a bi-annual publication meaning no figures have been released for this period. We will be able to see if other publications have picked up their readers in the next period. Tatler and Vanity Fair both saw less than 1% change to their PoP actively purchased circulations however when looking at YoY results, Vanity Fair saw a decline of -10.5% YoY whilst Tatler’s circulation decreased by -3.9% YoY.

Vogue remained almost static during this period with a +0.1% POP increase in actively purchased circulation and a +0.8% increase in overall circulation. This period has had many big changes for Vogue including the appointed a new Publishing Director, Vanessa Kingori MBE replacing Stephen Quinn, who retired after 26 years.

Vogue also said goodbye to previous editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman after 25 years and welcoming Edward Enninful OBE who unveiled his vision for the magazine in his inaugural December Issue. This was supported by a national advertising campaign, and sparked a revolution across social media with #newvogue continuing to trend worldwide. After 2 weeks, UK newsstand sales of the December issue was up +50% YoY which helped towards Vogues overall result. Edward signed 200 limited-edition hardback December issues in the Condé Nast Worldwide News shop, resulting in a queue starting at 3am; the power of the magazine has never been more evident! A combination of a new editorial vision and new commercial leadership will ensure Vogue remains a strong leader in the womens monthly market and will be one to watch going forward.


The women’s weekly market has continued maintained its decline from the last period at -10.3% actively purchased across print and digital. Although many titles have seen a further decline this period there are some positive stories to come out of these results. Hello! saw their actively purchased print and digital UK figures increase +7.9% YoY. The title found a lot of success from their coverage of all the good news to come from the Royal family over the latter part of last year. Cover stories featuring Harry and Megan’s engagement did particularly well, coverage of their romance, as well as the announcement of Kate and Will’s third child being on the way will have resonated well with their royalist audience. This can clearly be seen in their spikes in circulation with the announcement of Harry and Megan’s engagement selling 18% above their average circulation and a cover with Kate before Christmas selling 50% more than their average. Their subscriptions are also up +7% YoY showing that their audience is not just fickle but committed to the brand. As a title that doesn’t distribute any of its copies for free and rarely discounts its cover price, it’s very positive to see that there is still a strong appetite in the women weeklies market for the right sort of content.

Elsewhere in the market it’s interesting to see more fashion lead titles Look and Grazia seeing quite steep declines. Grazia saw a -20.9% YoY decline in its actively purchased figures. The title has been looking at ways of keeping its audience engaged and based on insights from them gave the magazine an editorial refresh in October, focusing on new content ideas. They also published their first LUXE edition in November which they saw success with. Hopefully if they can continue to build upon these changes they will see a more positive story next period. Look saw a -31.4% YoY decline this period, they did however manage to steady the dramatic drop last period saw and their PoP was down -5.4%.

Digital editions have seen continued success this period and are up +64.9% YoY in the UK which shows positive areas of growth for women’s weeklies. The biggest successes here are Look which saw a +245.6% YoY increase and My Weekly which was up +116.8% YoY, although as with most digital edition figures these are from a small base.


The men’s lifestyle market has shown fairly stable results this period, however, all titles have recorded a YoY decline.

ShortList continues to be the highest performing title within this sector demonstrating a minimal -0.4% YoY loss and a strong circulation of 502,773. The free sheet celebrated its 10th Birthday last year with a collector’s edition featuring 10 commemorative front covers with 10 high-profile cover stars including Anthony Joshua, Niall Horan and Jeremy Corbyn. ShortList also benefitted from their many specials that ran throughout 2017, including their bi-annual fashion issues, male beauty special and the first of their luxury issues in October, which attracted affluent commuters and brands alike.

Conde Nast’s GQ which also featured Jeremy Corbyn on the cover in December, displayed a YoY decrease of -4.7%. The GQ Men of the Year awards celebrated their 20th anniversary in September at the Tate Modern, the accompanying MOTY issue performs extremely well for the brand and this year featured multiple copy splits and high profile winners including   Stormzy, Sadiq Khan, Cillian Murphy, Zayn Malik and many more. The magazine is still the bread-and-butter of the brand, however their online channels have grown significantly and with them, their digital figures, reporting a +24.6% YoY increase.

Esquire (Hearst) displayed the biggest loss for this sector in terms of actively purchased, sitting at -18.1% YoY. That being said, the brand strives to continue engaging readers via dynamic distribution and multiple touchpoints, such as its four-day Townhouse event in partnership with Dior, which returned in 2017.

Earlier this year, Conde Nast announced changes to WIRED. The tech magazine, who reported a YoY loss of -4.7% this period will continue in 2018 as a bi-monthly. The magazine will run 6 issues a year featuring additional pages boasting even more high quality journalism and award winning features. The brand has also boosted investment into their digital offerings, from their podcast and digital apps, to their daily website coverage and video output. It will be interesting to see how the reduction in frequency of the print product and up weight in digital investment will play out throughout the year.


The Home Interest sector has seen a steady drop of -4.8% YoY and -4.2% PoP this results period which is fairly stable considering how niche the sector is and the wider market conditions.

Against all challenges, Grand Designs have successfully increased +6.2% PoP, placing them ahead of their competitive set. This uplift is no surprise as last year they introduced editor Karen Stylianides to the team. The highly respected editor has invested time and research into re-aligning their editorial focus to give relative content to their consumers. Appealing to their readers by promoting free tickets to Grand Design Live Shows in their magazine, they have also seen a significant growth in their digital sales. Their increased focus on multi-media platforms have seen better channel integration and audience engagement.

With market leading titles such as Homes & Garden decreasing -7.4% PoP this sector and widespread decline across all of their home interest titles, Time Inc have had a tough ABC period. Despite this, their strategy that concentrates on longevity and building a strong, sustainable magazine brands for their consumers and advertisers is very much forward thinking. In the past year we’ve seen considerable investment into their digital channels including the re-launch of luxury site and development into their social platforms which now boast a reach of over 13 million UK consumers.

Overall Hearst have seen a slight decrease of -2.5% PoP this ABC period. However, Country décor and craft magazine Country Living displayed positive figures, with an increase of 1.3% PoP despite little changes being made to the title. This may be due to their loyal 68,000 subscribers, which makes up 38% of their total circulation. Although their tablet edition of Country Living is a small percentage of their circulation, it still remains the number one in their competitive market.

Conde Nast have turned their attention away from print towards alternative revenue streams this year with title House and Garden. The brand has invested heavily into their popular events such as their annual Christmas Fair, as well as launching their first designer collaboration – The House & Garden Collection, handcrafted by Arlo & Jacob. Experimenting with new revenue streams has proven successful this period with their results displaying an increase of +3.7% YoY. Investment in social channels has also seen a massive increase of 6.8 million followers for the brand. They are much higher than their competitors by being ahead nearly over 30%. Conde Nast’s other home interest title World of Interiors saw a minor decrease in print this period of -1.6% YoY, however their social presence has seen nothing but growth, with their Twitter and Instagram followers increasing by 38% and 92% respectively.


The news & current affairs sector has done particularly well in the latest ABC results and has managed to stay flat (-0.6% YoY) for print and digital editions combined. Only three of the titles within this market had a decline in circulation with the remainder either increasing their circulation or staying flat. Unlike other sectors within the marketplace, news and current affairs has shown consecutive growth throughout the last few periods. These strong results are down to continued investment in quality journalism at a time when there is much discussion about the trustworthiness of other news and comment sources.

Prospect really stood out in this period and has seen the highest YoY increase for print and digital actively purchased of +63.7% YoY. This is partly due to the introduction of Policy Pages, which features two senior MP’s focussing on a particular topic. They have also focussed on growing their subscribers with increased email campaigns, presence at festivals and trade promotions with other publications. The Spectator, Economist and New Statesman also saw strong results. The Economist was up +7.6% YoY, which was great to see despite their cover price increasing by 99p. They have continued to focus on their experiential activity to drive subscriptions and also had two special issues last year (The World in 2018 and their Christmas double issue). The Spectator was another title who saw an increase in actively purchased print and digital (+6.8% YoY) despite raising their cover price from £4.25 to £4.50. Issues at the beginning of this period did especially well due to the ongoing hype and media attention of the general election earlier in the year. The New Statesman increased +3.8% YoY and they are looking to potentially launch in America and India this year.

Overall this sector has done really well and has seen a great increase of +15.7% YoY actively purchased digital within the UK, which implies consumers are turning to these titles to provide reliable and trusted journalism at a time where ‘fake news’ is so prominent.


The TV listings market saw many gradual declines as consumers shift away from traditional linear viewing due to the availability and popularity of on-demand services, despite this the market managed to limit readership decline to -5.1% YoY. H Bauer’s TV Choice remains the UK’s biggest selling magazine, with a loyal readership helping to maintain a strong circulation of 1,188,558 million and a minimal YoY decline of -2.5%. Engaging print and digital content encouraging consumer participation has helped maintain reader loyalty, with 425k online forms completed in 2017.

TimeInc’s SoapLife has achieved an impressive +8.6% YoY increase through shifting to a weekly frequency and increasing pagination to include listings. Lower prices also allowed SoapLife to obtain prominent space in the market. Despite showing a decrease of -5.2% YoY Timeinc’s What’s On TV is continually evolving to overcome current challenges in the market by offering features on Netflix and Amazon and other entertainment channels outside of traditional TV listings as well as launching a TV ‘pick of the day’ service on Amazon’s Alexa the brand is working to be relevant and innovative in this space.


For the motors market, 2018 has opened with a mixture of widespread print declines and small YoY gains with overall figures displaying a loss of -9.8% YoY. The standalone digital figures on the other hand are impressively positive, showing an increase of +35.8% YoY, this indicates that the automotive publisher’s investment into their digital revenue streams and branded content are beginning to pay off.

Bauer’s CAR magazine was the greatest success for the sector, displaying a notable overall +3.6% YoY increase.  This growth has been delivered as a result of a strong international subscription acquisition drive in partnership with Lloyds and heavy investment into its native content and digital offerings. The magazine launched ‘Custom 25’-  a content agency run by CAR for manufacturers allowing them access to all products in the Bauer portfolio. This was a focus of 2017 that has driven their digital numbers up by an enormous +56.9% YoY.

Immediate Media’s BBC Top Gear magazine also performed well digitally (+19.7% YoY) however displayed the largest decline of the sector print-wise this period with a loss of -19.1% YoY. Despite this, the magazine has managed to maintain its title of highest circulating monthly motors magazine via the promotion of various offers ranging from car products to subscriber package deals. The title also invested heavily into specials supplements this year. They ran an EV buying guide following the government’s announcement that Britain will ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040, and a Retro special both of which performed really well. Core monthly competitor Haymarket’s What Car?  are not sitting far behind with their circulation, displaying only a slight loss this period of-5.9% YoY

The highest circulating automotive weekly magazines AutoCar (Haymarket) and Auto Express (Dennis) were the next best performing in terms of total circulation for this sector displaying slight losses of -5.4% and -6.8% YoY respectively. Both titles offer regular and comprehensive motoring coverage to readers on a weekly basis however AutoCar has made significant changes this year to its content. They are now devoting more pages to the biggest news stories, reviews and features which might explain the slightly better performance than its main competitor.


The Food and Retail market (July-Dec 17) saw some encouraging PoP results in both print and digital. Although the print and digital market was down slightly YoY (-5.0%) a few food publications still managed to display a positive story. Many titles have created new and innovative ways to help aid sales and keep their brand at the forefront of consumer’s mind within the marketplace. Some have continued with editorial evolution and others have created new events. Foodism hosted their first awards ceremony and also a nationwide event with over 700 restaurants taking part and 12,000 consumers redeeming Pizza Vouchers.

Immediate Media who own the brands Delicious, Easy Cook, Good Food and Olive are leading the way in the food and retail market. Immediate are up by an impressive combined +5.5% PoP with 3 of the 4 titles showing a PoP growth.  A key reason for their success is evolution and adaptation, pushing new editorial content built around key pillars such as Recipes, Health, Travel, Eating Out and Trends. They have introduced new columnists, such as Tony Naylor in a bid to make Good Food ‘more than just a recipe database’. Last quarter they launched ‘Subs Club’ that involves a series of events and is offered exclusively to their loyal subscribers. This shift has been mirrored online, with the GoodFood website evolving to offer more diverse editorial content. Christmas was also a big boost for the title, they saw a +3% increase in circulation and +5% increase in value YOY. Although Immediate saw a positive PoP they saw a slight drop YoY which could be to do with the increased the UK cover price of Good Food to £4.50.

The way recipe and food content is being consumed has dramatically shifted from basic cook books and magazines to social media platforms. Over 208 million Instagram post have now been hash tagged ‘#food’. The magazine market needs to create innovative ways to retain their audience and remain relevant in an environment where consumers are increasingly reliant on social media. Consumer mindset has shifted from trusting advertisers and marketers to now being influenced by peers through social channels. This has sparked a need for businesses and companies to respond to changing trends and adapt the way in which they communicate with consumers and audiences. Foodism continue to grow their social channel with the magazine acting as a tangible compliment to this.

We say good bye to Jamie Oliver’s self-titled food magazine which won International Consumer Media brand of the year in 2015. Whilst Jamie’s books are more popular than ever, they feel their audience is increasingly looking to digital platforms to find content. Jamie feels that this content resonates better digitally than in print to his audience.


In the film sector, Empire continues to be the clear market leader, although posting a combined print and digital -10.6% YoY decline. The title has introduced a refresh to its editions. Listening to its consumers’ feedback Empire reduced its video game content, as well as adding new features focusing on rising stars, big movie news and up-close conversations with the biggest names in Hollywood. It continues to focus on a more ‘personal’ route as it sends its subscribers unique covers for each addition. Branching out, Empire included VR within its Alien: Covenant limited addition with headset included.

Empire’s annual frequency has now increased from 12 to 13 editions, with the introduction of the Summer edition to capitalise on expanding their reader base with the latest new additions. Over the last year, Empire has increased its female readership by 22%, lowered its average age from 36 to 32, and has increased ABC1 demographic by 11%.

Future’s film titles saw declines YoY for both Total Film at -9.3%, and SFX at -2.4%. this period.

Although Sight & Sound hasn’t yet released its figures for the last period, it has still seen a year of positivity. It launched an updated version of the app, and sparked controversy and debate online placing Twin Peaks as second in the Films of the Year Poll. In a bid to increase subscribers, Sight & Sound has now published a complete online archive, for free, with all subscriptions dating back to 1932. Price increased by 40p per issue from June 2017, however surprisingly the title claims this had a positive impact in sales. This increase may be down to the David Lynch/Twin Peaks cover, and June was the highest selling of the year; however, we are unable to monitor this as the title hasn’t released its most recent ABC’s.


Last year was a hard year for the Health & Fitness sector. Freemium titles Coach and Sport closed in the first half of the year, with Women’s Fitness & Top Sante also closing in the second. With these titles out of the equation, this market has lost more than half of its overall circulation within a year. For the remaining titles that are in this sector, they were unable to pick up the readers left from the closed titles as the overall circulation is still down -20.5% PoP. Balance magazine was a new addition to this sector last year, however this has not affected the overall figure as they remain flat at 0.0% YoY.

Dennis has now lost a huge presence in this market as they leave behind Coach and Women’s Fitness. However, not all is bad, as Cyclist had a positive ABC this year by staying flat (-0.5% YoY). This shows there is still very much a need for this product in the market and the cycling community are very loyal to this magazine. Cyclist is over 50% subscribed and Dennis have introduced a new subscription offer ‘first 3 magazines for £5’ which will look to grow their audience even further in 2018.

Hearst’s fitness titles have had a really strong period this ABC with Women’s Health increasing +0.6% PoP and Men’s Health growing +0.1% PoP. As well as fitness trends being on the rise, these increases are thanks to Hearst’s dynamic distribution which allows them to target audiences which they wouldn’t normally reach. Without this distribution method, looking at actively purchased, Women’s Health drops -5.1% PoP and Men’s Health a small -2.1% PoP. These are still really robust ABC figures when comparing these to closing titles and other vast falling circulations. Hearst shows that dynamic distribution is remarkably successful and they are investing in research which shows consumers who receive dynamic distribution copies engage with brands just as much as those who pay for their copy.

The Health & Fitness sector has had some drastic changes, with titles coming and going over the past year. This being said, there is evidence which shows there are loyal audiences in this sector and a need for these newsbrands.


The Music sector saw an overall decline of -11% YoY in 2017 with many titles reporting annual figures. Unlike last year, every title in this sector saw a decrease in circulation.

Timeinc’s Uncut has reported a better picture compared to the last results, posting -3% YoY compared to -12.9% YoY in 2016. The stem in decline can perhaps be attributed to a heavy redesign, where they launched a brand new mast head as well as introducing a new cover image strategy to entice readers. As well this, they have heavily incentivised their subscriptions giving exclusive rewards to readers each month. Free title NME saw a relatively small decline, -6.3% YoY, this was perhaps helped by a positive reaction to the pre-election June issue which saw Jeremy Corbyn as the cover star as well as the editorial push to encourage millennials to vote in the 2017 general election. NME are looking to grow their intelligent hand to hand distribution strategy introduced in 2017, by adding new tactical distribution points at key events such as festivals, travel hubs and football locations where they know their target audience are. Alongside this, NME have also recently increased focus on bespoke brand events, creating NME lock ins, Life hacks and Cinejam in order to engage with and tempt new readers.

Bauer followed closely behind, with Mojo reporting a -9% YoY in circulation. This is despite having some standout covers which included celebration issues for music legends such Hendrix, Bowie and the Beatles. Alongside these issues Mojo also created their first experiential event to help build their brand image, the event placed a new David Bowie movie in to 169 cinema screens across the UK where they invited selected readers to the event. Q magazine saw a -9.7% YoY drop in circulation. Even though the magazine is perceived to interview the best talent in the industry, such as Liam & Noel Gallagher, this isn’t enough to stay ahead of their competition and the title need to look at where they can grow their brand association.

Lastly Team Rock saw the sharpest decline with both of their magazines, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer falling -15.1% and -18.4% YoY respectively.

The latest figures show the music market is now more competitive than ever, and with increased access to content online, magazines need to do more than produce just strong music content to be receive a competitive edge in this market.