Glitz and glamour

Glamour, Condé Nast’s glossy handbag-filler that launched last year, has dislodged 30-year-old Cosmopolitan as the UK’s best-selling monthly.

Glamour, Condé Nast’s glossy handbag-filler that launched last year, has dislodged 30-year-old Cosmopolitan as the UK’s best-selling monthly. The battle for supremacy between the two fashion and lifestyle magazines started when the handbag-sized A5 magazine was launched in what was already labelled an overcrowded women’s magazine market. Glamour has succeeded where other recently launched titles have failed. Its success provides a glimmer of hope for the publishing industry, which has since been hit by the doom and gloom of closures and culls.

Handbags and gladrags

According to the January to June 2002 Audit Bureau of Circulations’ (ABCs) figures, Glamour’s circulation reached 520,193, an increase of 19.2 per cent period on period and 15.2 per cent year on year. The National Magazine Company’s (NatMags) Cosmopolitan has also inched up 1.5 per cent period on period and four per cent year on year, with a circulation of 50,013 less copies than Glamour.

Experts say that although Glamour’s success can be attributed to its competitive price of &£1.80 and attractive subscription offer of &£12.99 a year, the title has managed to create a buzz around women’s glossies. It has brought new readers to the market, indicated by healthy yearly circulation figures posted by rival titles, such as EMAP’s Red, and New Woman (up 7.7 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively).

EMAP deputy managing director of women’s media Julie Harris says: “Glamour is good news for everybody. It has proved that the market is wide open and that there is still mileage not only for existing titles, but also for new launches.”

A media buyer adds: “It is a great example of how a launch can broaden, rather than cannibalise, a market. As advertisers, this excites us. Over the past five to six years, Glamour is the only launch that has made a difference in the women’s glossy sector.”

There has also been upsets in the celebrity arena, Richard Desmond’s OK! has overtaken its arch-rival Hello! by more than 57,000 copies and toppled IPC Media’s Now from the top spot. However, in terms of actively bought copies, Now still led the pack. OK! posted an ABC figure of 575,307 copies a week, an increase of 18.2 per cent period on period. Hello!’s circulation decreased by 1.7 per cent period on period to 517,883, while year on year it was down 38.5 per cent.

Hello! publisher Sally Cartwright says: “We are very happy with the figures since they show our highest January to June circulation ever. Last year’s figures were temporarily boosted, as a result of a significant sampling exercise.”

The ABCs recently adopted a rule stipulating that copies sold at a reduced rate as part of a promotion must be charged at 20 per cent or more of the basic cover price if they are to be included in the circulation figures. This followed complaints that Hello! and OK! inflated their January to June figures with hundreds of thousands of copies sold for as little as a penny in deals with national newspapers.

Cartwright is also unconcerned by the rise of Heat and Now. “Their readers are younger, while Hello! is aimed at older and more upmarket readers,” she adds. The magazine’s recent covers include Claudia Schiffer and Sir Paul McCartney.

However, one media buyer is not too sure about Hello!’s proposition. “If anything, it seems to be chasing OK! in terms of features. One time it used to be more exclusive, but of late it has been using naff covers such as EastEnders’ stars. At the same time it says that it will not run after Big Brother contestants. I’m not sure that they are clear about which direction to go – more upmarket or somewhere in between,” he says

Still hotting up

Elsewhere Heat, EMAP’s never-ending tale of success, has once again managed a massive increase in circulation – 34.8 per cent period on period and 103.4 per cent year on year – to 478,924, proving that the British have an insatiable appetite for celebrity news and gossip. Rumours are abound in the industry that EMAP is on course to launch another gossip-driven title aimed at the older market.

In April, EMAP unveiled Sneak, a younger version of Heat aimed at teenagers (MW March 7). The title is yet to publish an ABC. The industry is watching with bated breath to see if Sneak will boost the otherwise ailing teen market.

Attic Futura’s Sugar, BBC’s Top of the Pops (ToPs), EMAP’s Bliss, Smash Hits and J-17 have all taken a beating in the sector in both period-on-period and year-on-year figures. The debut circulation for NatMag’s Cosmo Girl! is also far from encouraging, at 175,237 copies a month.

Publishers blame declining sales on the rise in the popularity of mobile phones. Media buyers term the excuse as ridiculous.

One buyer predicts tougher times for the market. He says: “The teenage market is going through the floor, simply for want of better products. Cosmo Girl! has achieved half what was promised to advertisers; the relaunch of Bliss in a Glamour A5 format is yet to bear fruit and even something like J-17, a brand with great heritage, has been posting disastrous results for some time. The stuff being churned out by most teen titles is something that teenagers can get easily from older titles like Heat, there is nothing new or different about magazines for UK youth.”

EMAP group publishing director for youth titles David Bostock says: “J-17’s dip this year is bigger than we expected, but we are working towards making it bounce back. We agree that the market is over-crowded with similar products, which is the reason why Sneak was launched, an innovative product for the ‘baby’ glossy market. The relaunch of Bliss in April will show results in the next round of ABCs.”

ToPs publisher Alfie Lewis is also promising “exciting times ahead” with new plans for the title. The magazine’s circulation is down 4.2 per cent year on year to 235,007.

But if the bells toll for one market, it appears to be the men’s magazines sector.

EMAP’s FHM – the leader of the pack – only registered a period-on-period increase of 1.8 per cent to a circulation of 580,738. Trailing behind with a circulation of 309,041 is IPC’s Loaded, which inched up 0.1 per cent period on period. Others such as Dennis Publishing’s Maxim, Cabal’s Front and Condé Nast’s GQ have all taken a hiding.

MediaCom press director Steve Goodman says: “There is hardly any real organic growth in the sector. But if you look at Loaded, the figures are good because its home bulk sales have dropped drastically. But the home newsstand sales of FHM are still down. In the men’s market there is an enormous amount of bulks and overseas sales that are counted as total sales.”

FHM publishing director James Carter also predicts another round of flat sales for the men’s market at the next set of ABCs in six months.

By then, the landscape of the entire market could have been redrawn if, as expected, a number of underperforming titles are culled.

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