Spotlight: Magazines

The magazines market seems to lack sparkle. Consumers are purchasing fewer titles, and are complaining of unoriginal content. Although giveaways are successful in attracting impulse purchase, they do not help to build long-term readerships wit

MAGAZINES/JOURNALS BOUGHT IN PAST MONTH Adults %(NOT INCLUDING COLOUR SUPPLEMENTS FROM NEWSPAPERS OR FREE MAGAZINES) Bought one or more magazines from any type of retail outlet 45 Had magazine delivered for which have an annual subscription 20 Neither 45 Seven to ten 7

Types of magazines bought in past three months(including subscriptions) All buyers % General women’s interest 37 Hobby or special interest 36 General interest or news magazine 21 Computer or other technology 20 Motoring 18 Sport 17 Home interest, decorating or DIY 16 Business or trade 15 Gardening 14 General men’s interest magazine 13 Cookery 7

There is a distinct malaise in the magazines market. Just over half the adult population – 55 per cent – bought a magazine, either through subscription or from a retailer, in the four weeks before June 10, 2001. (Colour supplements from newspapers, or free magazines were specifically included in this question. People were asked to include magazines on subscription in all their replies.)

To make matters worse, most buyers are relatively infrequent purchasers – half of all buyers said they bought only one or two magazines a month. The largest segment – 30 per cent of buyers – bought only one magazine in a “normal” month. A fifth of buyers bought two magazines; 15 per cent bought three, and another 15 per cent bought four magazines. Those who purchased five or more magazines a month made up 20 per cent of the total market.

Magazines sales are heavily dependent on this small group of frequent purchasers, who account for about half of all magazines bought, through retail or subscription. Regular purchasers, buying three or four magazines a month, accounted for about 30 per cent of copies sold; the numerically largest group, who bought one or two magazines a month, only contributed a fifth of sales.

The general malaise in the market is apparent in buyers’ own perceptions of a decline in purchase. Fifty-six per cent of buyers agreed with the statement “I used to buy more magazines than I do nowadays”. This rose to 63 per cent for the group which many publishers consider their prime target – young women. Only four out of ten buyers “like to try new and different magazines”, although the high level of enthusiasm among young women for new or different titles manages to offset this low figure.

Although most readers are reluctant to try new titles, many say they are not satisfied with the content of their magazines. Three-quarters of readers felt that “there are too many of the same sort of articles in most magazines”, rising to eight out of ten among young women. However, interest in advertisements was surprisingly high. Forty-four per cent of buyers claimed to “read most of the advertisements in specialist magazines”. Considering that the market for these magazines is smaller than that for general magazines, it indicates that niche sectors may be performing more to their readers’ satisfaction that more general titles.

Magazine readership

Women are slightly more likely than men to have bought a magazine in the past month, and young women (aged 15 to 34) are more likely to be buyers than older women.

People aged 55 and over are the least likely to be magazine readers, but, encouragingly for the industry, there is no sign of a shortfall among 1534-year-olds.

The most major bias of the market is towards upmarket buyers. Nearly two-thirds of professional and managerial people, the ABs, had bought a magazine in May 2001, compared with 57 per cent of junior white-collar workers, and half of the rest of the adult population.

When it comes to the most important sector of the market, the frequent buyers, these characteristics become more marked. Women make up more than two-thirds of frequent buyers, and ABs nearly a third, although they make up only 19 per cent of the adult population. Frequent buyers are distributed almost equally between 15 to 34, 35 to 55 and 55 and over age groups.

Types of magazines bought

“General women’s interest” and “hobby or special interest titles” are by far the two most popular types of magazines, bought by just over a third of all buyers – although the second category probably included many of the separate categories on NOP’s list, as well as more minority interests. General interest or news magazines and “computer or other technology” were each bought by a fifth of purchasers.

The other categories have remarkably similar numbers of readers. “Motoring”, “sport” and “home interest, decorating or DIY” are each bought by just under a fifth of purchasers; “business or trade”, “gardening” and “general men’s interest” magazines attract slightly smaller audiences. Only “cookery” of the separate categories scores less than one in ten readers.

When NOP enquired about magazines bought or received on subscription at least once every month, women’s magazines retained their lead, bought at least once a month by three out of ten purchasers. However, readers may not buy the same titles each month. “Special interest” magazines came a clear second, bought regularly by 27 per cent of purchasers. Both these categories converted at least three-quarters of their readers who buy once every three months into regular buyers.

Other types of magazine lost roughly half their occasional readership. Computer or other technology, general interest or news magazines and motoring titles were each bought at least once a month by just over ten per cent of readers. The other magazines attracted just under one in ten. Cookery shrank to two per cent.

Buying magazines

A fifth of the adult population have at least one magazine on annual subscription. More than twice as many – 45 per cent – bought from a retail outlet during May 2001. More than half of subscribers bought at least one extra magazine over the counter as well.

Half of all purchasers buy most of their magazines from a newsagent or corner shop, nearly twice as many as buying mainly on subscription. A fifth buy most of their magazines from a supermarket and 16 per cent from a shop or stall at a railway station, airport or bus station.

The popularity of retail purchase is linked to the importance of choice at point of sale, nearly six out of ten buyers said they “sometimes just buy a magazine that catches [their] eye on the shelf”. This rises to 70 per cent for young women. This readership is particularly influenced by “free giveaways on the cover”. Two-thirds of young women “liked” this type of promotion, compared with a third of other buyers. This may explain young women’s apparent lack of interest in subscribing to any particular magazine, indicating that covermounts work against buyer loyalty.

Main Findings

-55 per cent of adults bought a magazine in May 2001

-20 per cent of all adults subscribe to a magazine

-50 per cent of buyers buy one or two magazines a month

-Women’s general interest magazines are the most popular category

Vital Statistics

MAGAZINES/JOURNALS BOUGHT IN PAST MONTH Adults %(NOT INCLUDING COLOUR SUPPLEMENTS FROM NEWSPAPERS OR FREE MAGAZINES) Bought one or more magazines from any type of retail outlet 45 Had magazine delivered for which have an annual subscription 20 Neither 45 Seven to ten 7

Types of magazines bought in past three months(including subscriptions) All buyers % General women’s interest 37 Hobby or special interest 36 General interest or news magazine 21 Computer or other technology 20 Motoring 18 Sport 17 Home interest, decorating or DIY 16 Business or trade 15 Gardening 14 General men’s interest magazine 13 Cookery 7

Outlet where most magazines bought Adults % From a newsagent or corner shop 50 On subscription 27 From a supermarket 21 From a shop/stall at railway station, airport or bus station 16

Number of magazines bought in normal month (including subscriptions) All buyers % One 30 Two 20 Three 15 Four 15 Five to ten 17 Eleven or more 3

<b>Attitudes to magazines </b> All buyers agreeing % a great deal a little not much at all I used to buy more magazines than I do nowadays 35 21 44 I sometimes just buy a magazine that catches my eye on the shelf 24 33 43 I like magazines with free offers or giveaways on the cover 17 23 60 I read most of the ads in specialist magazines 16 27 56 I like to try new and different magazines 17 26 57 There are too many of the same sort of articles in most magazines 51 22 26

Attitudes to magazines

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