The heat is on

The latest ABCs are far less gloomy than expected thanks to fresh faces such as Glamour and Heat buoying up sales, but many sectors had disappointing results. The pressure is now on these poor performers to find ways to breathe new life into t

The women’s magazine sector, traditionally considered the lifeline of magazine publishing, has had a busy six months. There have been much-hyped launches, such as that for the petite but well-formed Glamour, and equally talked about closures, for example the relaunched Sixties favourite Nova. This activity has happened during a period of upheaval for the magazine industry. EMAP lost its chief executive Kevin Hand and AOL Time Warner acquired IPC Media.

Both women’s monthlies and weeklies were handed a gloomy set of Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures in the July to December 2000 results. Slides for several key titles were reported. But the January to June 2001 ABCs highlight several success stories.

Condé Nast’s high-profile launch, Glamour, recorded a debut ABC of 451,486, despite not having issues for the full six months. The National Magazine Company’s (NatMags) Cosmopolitan, which recorded a 0.5 per cent increase year on year, managed to stay just ahead of Glamour, with sales of 452,176. And EMAP Elan’s Heat, thanks to heavy marketing, posted yet another increase – of 147.5 per cent year on year and 36.6 per cent period on period to 235,450.

NatMags deputy managing director Duncan Edwards says: “In the women’s glossy sector, the launch of Glamour, In Style and Eve have helped stimulate the market. It is a very buoyant market, and if a title is at top of its game editorially, it can really benefit. Naturally we are pleased with the performance of Cosmopolitan.”

Cosmopolitan’s arch-rival Marie Claire, an IPC Southbank title, suffered a painful fall of 11.9 per cent year on year and 7.6 per cent period on period to 370,089. IPC says that the magazine is undergoing a “significant contemporising” programme.

BBC Worldwide’s Eve reported a debut ABC of 131,369, while Time Inc released a publisher’s statement of a debut circulation of 150,344 for In Style .

In the celebrity sector, Hello! posted its highest ever circulation figure of 842,723, up 83.7 per cent year on year. The huge numbers have been driven largely by the magazine’s recent promotion with the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday offering free editions of Hello!

Hello! publishing director Sally Cartwright says: “Let me be quite honest, I don’t expect these figures again.”

According to the ABC chief executive Chris Boyd, Hello!’s bulk deal with the Mail on Sunday added 153,000 copies to its circulation figures.

It is expected that the bureau will make it mandatory for all publishers to declare a 20 per cent variance in their circulation figures for the next ABC period, to separate the bulk sales from the actively purchased copies. Bulk sales are often free copies given away through organisations separate from the publisher so that the magazine reaches people who would not normally buy it. They can represent a significant portion of the total circulation figure. Many press buyers feel that bulk sales are sometimes used to inflate ABC figures and to charge the advertisers a premium for what is, without the bulks, a low quality circulation.

Men’s Health publishing director Ralph Boon, who claims that his magazine is 99.8 per cent actively purchased, says: “The easy answer for advertisers is to adopt the practice of checking the actively purchased ABC figures and asking publishers about the value and relevance of their bulks.”

Hello!’s rival OK! Magazine was up 43.1 per cent year on year to 651,513.

The women’s health and beauty sector, following the recent closure of Attic Futura’s Shine, was handed a mixed bag of fortunes. Marie Claire Health & Beauty, which has reverted to a bi-monthly frequency after a brief spell as a monthly, experienced a decline of 6.1 per cent period on period to 69,024. NatMags’ Zest was down 14 per cent year on year to 110,120. Bucking the trend were EMAP Elan’s Top Santé Health & Beauty and Dennis Publishing’s Shape, both increasing 1.2 per cent to 182,211 and 4.6 per cent to 55,458 year on year respectively.

Men fail to impress

The men’s sector, following the recent closures of EMAP’s Sky and IPC Ignite!’s Later, continues with its downward trend. The key players in this market all reported declining year-on-year circulations – EMAP Elan’s FHM was down 2.2 per cent to 700,172 ; IPC Ignite!’s Loaded was down 12.7 per cent to 305,444 and Dennis Publishing’s Maxim fell 6.5 per cent to 305,070.

The only success story in this sector is EMAP Elan’s Arena, which reported an increase of 6.4 per cent year on year to 50,140.

The ABC’s Boyd says: “The heady days of men’s magazines have come to an end now.”

A Comag report on the ABCs suggests that an injection of new product may be what this stagnant sector needs.

Loaded founder and I Feel Good chief executive James Brown is understood to be launching a men’s magazine next March. Codenamed Project Jack, the title is believed to be a similar size to Glamour. Brown refused to comment.

MediaCom director of press buying Steve Goodman says: “I believe there is enormous room for launches in the men’s market. At the moment it is a case of all titles telling the same kind of stories. It is a great shame that Later closed, because that was one title trying to do something different.

“But where the matter of size is concerned, I can’t see the point of launching a handbag-size men’s magazine. Do publishers think that men will carry a handbag to put their small magazines in?”

Condé Nast’s GQ, which has just launched a handbag-size version to be placed alongside its A4-size format, has posted a decline of 7.7 per cent year on year to 127,518.

It is a bleak picture for the teen titles too. The majority of teen magazines in both the lifestyle and the entertainment sectors show declines in their year-on-year and period-on-period circulations. The market leaders, Attic Futura’s Sugar and BBC Worldwide’s Top of the Pops, were down 11.4 per cent to 368,559 and 27.7 per cent to 281,417 year on year respectively. Only DC Thomson’s Shout managed an increase – of 2.1 per cent year on year to 119,052. BBC Worldwide’s Star, the teenage celebrity magazine launched in October, posted its debut ABC figure of 130,493.

Caroline Simpson, managing partner and head of press at Zenith Media, says: “The change in social trends is behind the decline of teen magazines. Teenagers today have more disposable income than ever before and also more choice of products on which to spend their money. The rise in popularity of mobile phones is another factor – teenagers are more into text messaging than reading magazines.

“Existing teen titles will have further cause for concern when NatMags launches its Cosmo Girl and EMAP its Elle Girl next month.”

The TV listings chart continues to dominate newsstand rankings, but BBC Worldwide’s Radio Times failed to halt its year-on-year and period-on-period decline of 3.9 per cent and five per cent respectively to 1,200,796, despite its recent &£6m TV advertising blitz. It was also despite adding 14 extra listings pages, for which it increased its cover price by 7.5 per cent.

BBC Magazines managing director Peter Phippen says: “When we made changes to Radio Times we said the best had just got better. Now the most profitable magazine in the UK has just got more profitable. It is the biggest [TV listings] magazine brand of them all and an incredible success story.”

IPC’s What’s On TV, after waging a price war against H Bauer’s TV Choice, has powered its way back to ABC growth. It is up 0.1 per cent year on year to 1,709,092. Starting with its September issue, What’s On TV will increase its cover price by 45p.

TV Choice was up 2.6 per cent period on period and down 4.2 per cent year on year to 751,618.

Wallflowers

In the music sector, dance overall was down 5.1 per cent year on year, while heavy metal and rock magazines were up 15.6 per cent and 34.6 per cent year on year respectively.

The Ministry of Sound’s Ministry was down once again; it suffered a 20.8 per cent drop year on year to 75,274. EMAP Performance’s three music titles experienced a year-on-year increase – Kerrang! increased 15.6 per cent to 52,428; Q was up 11.6 per cent to 200,159; and Mojo was up 6.5 per cent to 87,120.

Elsewhere in the customer magazines market, the computing magazines suffered heavy circulation falls in line with the general decline in PC hardware and software sales. The PC Business, PC Leisure and Sony sectors all posted a drop in their year-on-year figures.

PC Pro, a Dennis Publishing title, and Future Publishing’s Official PlayStation Magazine – two of the biggest computing titles – were both dramatically down. PC Pro’s circulation dropped 18.6 per cent year on year to 135,192 and PlayStation’s fell 55.7 per cent year on year to 133,168.

While this set of ABCs has its usual share of winners and losers, the general belief is that publishing overall is achieving healthy growth, with actively purchased titles on the increase.

Boyd says: “This period shows an overall increase of eight per cent for actively purchased titles. And that is very encouraging.”

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