Trend Spotter

June’s ABC figures reveal a string of reverses, the most surprising of which are in the lads’ sector. What are the longer term trends?

If the long-term health of the magazine market was judged solely on one set of Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, then the January to June results would make EMAP feel very nervous and call into doubt the future of the lads’ magazine phenomenon.

Thankfully for EMAP, which was hit by a declining teenage market and a disappointing performance from Heat, one set of ABCs does not make a definitive statement. But the January to June figures do reveal some interesting trends, as well as providing the first crop of results from Heat and Cabal’s Front and Real Homes.

The figures show the first dip in performance from EMAP’s FHM and IPC’s Loaded. FHM dropped 9.6 per cent year on year to 701,089, while Loaded was down 15.8 per cent for the same period to 384,351.

Rodale’s Men’s Health, another former men’s magazine star, also saw a drop of 11 per cent year on year to 218,724, while The National Magazine Company’s Esquire recorded a decrease of 10.5 per cent to 100,380. The only rays of sunlight in this flattening sector were from Dennis Publishing’s Maxim, Condé Nast’s GQ and John Brown’s Bizarre. Maxim went up 3.1 per cent to 310,096; GQ, under James Brown’s editorship, saw a rise of 11.5 per cent to 145,144 and Bizarre was up 27.4 per cent to 106,305 year on year.

Mediacom TMB director of press Steve Goodman says: “I would not have expected FHM to fall that much, particularly bearing in mind that its June issue was supposed to have hit 1 million. If you exclude that, the figures for FHM would have been much lower.”

Adam Crow, press director for MindShare, was more forthright: “This is not a great surprise. It seems that men in their mid-20s are bored of seeing boobs on front covers.”

EMAP’s FHM woes were further compounded by its women’s glossy Red, which after a flying start this time last year, took a surprising knock. It was down 10.5 per cent to 170,101 year on year, 10,000 below its launch target. Stablemate Elle Decoration saw a fall of 12.2 per cent to 57,591 along with sister title Elle, which went down 3.6 per cent to 205,151. The titles EMAP bought from Wagadon in July did not fare much better. The Face was down 26.2 per cent to 57,703, while Arena was down 28 per cent to 46,777.

In the women’s glossies sector there was also bad news for NatMags, which saw decreases across all but one of its titles year on year. Company plummeted by 16.5 per cent to 242,087; She was down 12.8 per cent to 211,03; and Good Housekeeping dropped 15.9 per cent to 370,436 year on year. Only Zest was up, 1.2 per cent to 112,014.

NatMags managing director Terry Mansfield said: “The recent economic downturn has obviously had an impact on the consumer magazine market. But I believe that our clearly differentiated and strongly targeted magazine brands will remain those the consumer wants to buy.”

There was some good news, however, in the women’s sector. IPC’s Marie Claire saw a rise of 5.1 per cent to 437,642, while Attic Futura’s B Magazine saw a rise of 11.1 per cent to 235,941 and health and beauty title Shine lived up to its name with an ABC debut of 120,968.

Otherwise the women’s glossy market looked distinctly jaded. EMAP’s Minx was down 17.8 per cent to 126,883, NatMags’ Cosmopolitan was down by 0.4 per cent to 470,142, while IPC’s Woman’s Journal fell 19.8 per cent to 103,209, although the September issue sees a new look for the magazine.

In the women’s weeklies sector, Northern & Shell’s OK! arrived within spitting distance of parity with arch rival Hello!. OK! shot up 92.9 per cent year on year to a circulation of 413,148, while Hello! stayed ahead but eased 2.5 per cent to 493,322 over the same period.

This crop of ABCs was also significant for its debuts. EMAP’s Heat showed a widely predicted disappointing circulation of 34,478 – 65,522 short of its targeted figure 100,000. Cabal’s first figures for Front magazine were also well below its target of 200,000 with sales of 140,154, while The Real Homes Magazine recorded a first figure of 130,084, also below its target of 150,000.

IPC’s Mizz was up 34.8 per cent to 150,230 in an otherwise difficult teenage market. BBC Worldwide’s Live & Kicking was down 27.2 per cent year on year to 156,707, while EMAP was badly hit again by Smash Hits, which went down 39.8 per cent to 230,764.

In the home interest sector, Time Warner’s Wallpaper was up 39.2 per cent to 112,404 year on year. IPC’s Ideal Home, under editor-in-chief Isobel McKenzie-Price’s stewardship, was another star: up 14 per cent year on year to 237,734. However, there were problems for IPC’s Homes & Ideas, which recorded a drop of 25.7 per cent to 162,349 while NatMag’s House Beautiful recorded a drop of 18.2 per cent to 252,124.

MindShare’s Crow says: “These figures may have been affected by the growing number of TV programmes covering the home interest sector.”

Football titles saw decreases across the board year on year. Haymarket’s Four Four Two was down 16.1 per cent to 71,608 while IPC’s Shoot lost 29.9 per cent of its readers year on year, down to 56,624.

Of the major publishing houses, IPC fared better than most, with stars such as Mizz, Ideal Home and the weekly Now (which rose by 26.1 per cent year on year to 386,282) balancing nine double-digit decreases. IPC was not immune to bad news. Melody Maker was down 14.9 per cent to 34,068 and is about to be relaunched in an A4 format. IPC’s Our Baby was down 19.9 per cent to 36,721. It is being relaunched as Expecting Our Baby next month.

Of the smaller houses, Future Publishing saw sales increase across the board by 29 per cent, bolstered by growing interest in the Internet. Attic Futura had good results with B and Shine, while Inside Soap shone with a 24.5 per cent increase year on year to 251,867.

As one media buyer says: “It’s hard to follow where all the trends are in this set of ABCs.” While these figures may be bad news for NatMags and EMAP, the situation could change completely in a few months. And it is unlikely that the lads’ mag will be singing its swan song just yet.”

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