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Magazine review

By The Drum, Administrator

May 5, 2005 | 7 min read

The following abridged report describes the results of research commissioned by PPA Scotland and conducted by Scotinform Ltd. The study, co-funded by Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, aimed to build on initial sampling research conducted by the PPA in 1998, which led to the establishment of a PPA office in Scotland. The results of the 1998 study showed that there were at least 40 organisations involved in magazine publishing in Scotland printing 214 magazine titles and with a combined turnover or nearly £60m. The aim of this study was to conduct a survey of Scottish magazine publishers, with the specific objectives of:

1.identifying the number of magazines published

2.identifying key business performance

indicators (turnover, employees, etc)

3.identifying training and other business

development needs

Methedology and sample

The first phase of the study involved desk research to identify additional organisations involved in publishing magazines in Scotland. This research identified a total population of 195 organisations all of which were sent a self-completion questionnaire in February 2005 with follow-up telephone calls being made and e-mails sent to encourage responses. A total of 78 organisations returned a completed questionnaire, a response rate of 40 per cent.

Profile of Sector

63 per cent of respondents said that their main business activity was magazine publishing and a further 13 per cent were involved in the media related activities, including newspaper publishing. This suggests that there are 123 organisations whose principal activity is magazine publishing in Scotland and over 65 organisations from other sectors.Two-thirds of organisations are involved in publishing consumer titles (including titles such as member magazines for National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland), one-third in business or professional magazines (such as CA Magazine and Scottish Business Insider) and five per cent in literary titles (such as Chapman and Edinburgh Review). Some publishers publish more than one type of magazine.

Number of Magazine Titles

The total number of magazine titles in Scotland is estimated at 712. Two-thirds of the titles are own publications and one-third are contract.Although this represents an average of nearly four titles per organisation, in fact 54 per cent of the organisations publish only one or two titles, illustrating the high proportion of small publishers. At the other end of the scale, ten per cent of organisations publish ten or more titles. Four per cent (three respondents) do not produce any titles at all in Scotland, while seven per cent do not produce any of their own publications in Scotland.

It is likely that the number of other organisations involved in magazine publishing has been underestimated in the survey. Therefore, it would be realistic to assume that there are in excess of 1,000 magazines published in Scotland.

Frequency of Publication

The average frequency of publication was eight times a year, with one-fifth of the titles published quarterly, and one-fifth published bi-monthly. Consumer magazines had a higher than average frequency with nearly ten issues per year. This compared with an average of seven issues per year for business publications and three issues per year for literary

Print Run and Pagination

The average print run per title was 23,500 per issue, 60 per cent of which is paid for. This compares with an average print run in the 1998 survey of 14,322 per issue.

On average there were 69 pages per title, with an average pagination of 82 pages for consumer titles and 60 pages for business titles. The actual figures on pagination show a wide variance in size: 44 per cent of magazines are 40 pages or less, and 24 per cent are over 100 pages. At a rough estimate, 4.6 billion sheets of A4 paper are required by the magazine industry in Scotland to meet its printing needs.


Scotland accounts for over 60 per cent of the circulation of magazines and is a particularly important market for organisations that do not specialise in magazine publishing, such as the public sector, charities and associations. Over one-quarter of circulation is elsewhere in the UK and ten per cent is overseas. Business magazines had a higher proportion of circulation overseas than consumer magazines. These figures are similar to the 1998 survey, which showed that 64 per cent of circulation was in Scotland and 34 per cent was elsewhere in the UK. The highest circulation of any one magazine in Scotland is 372,743, while the lowest circulation of any one magazine is 1,000.

Printing and Distribution

Nearly 40 per cent of titles are printed outside Scotland, principally elsewhere in the UK. 29 per cent of titles did not have an external distributor or did not state where their distributor was based. 60 per cent use a Scottish company and 20 per cent use a distributor based elsewhere.

Employment in Magazine Publishing

On average, respondents employed 6.74 full-time staff and 2.89 part-time staff in magazine-related employment. The highest levels of employment were, as you would expect in magazine publishers: these firms employed an average of eight full-time staff and four part-time staff.

Magazine publishing is responsible for the employment of approximately 1,300 full-time employees and 565 part-time staff in Scotland. This represents 75 per cent of the staff employed by these organisations, suggesting that magazine publishing is a critical element of the business. For magazine publishers the proportion of staff employed in magazine-related employment is over 90 per cent.

One-quarter of organisations employ only one full-time member of staff, while one-fifth employ ten or more full-time employees. Ten per cent of organisations did not employ any full-time staff, while 36 per cent did not employ any part-time staff. In addition to the full-time and part-time staff employed, organisations employed an additional 4,400 freelance staff in the past year.

Industry Turnover

Respondents were asked to provide information on their organisation’s turnover relating to magazine publishing in Scotland by indicating which turnover band they were in. The average turnover was calculated by taking the mid-point of each band, which gave an annual average of £650,000. This estimate suggests a total industry turnover of around £125m.

This magazine-related turnover represented an average of around 75 per cent of the turnover of the organisations involved.

The turnover bands confirm the wide range of size of organisations involved in magazine publishing. Nearly one-half of the organisations had a turnover of £250,000 or less, and 16 per cent had a turnover of more than £1m.

This figure of £125m from the Scottish magazine publishing industry compares with, the cashmere industry which is said to be worth over £100m to the Scottish economy, while the business tourism industry in Edinburgh and the flagship festivals and events industry are each worth £125m to the Edinburgh and Lothian local economy.

Training and Staff Development

Only 28 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the current availability of staff training, with 47 per cent of the sample having no opinion.

The quarter of respondents who were dissatisfied with training was most likely to be small companies and those publishing consumer magazines.

45 per cent of respondents said that their organisation had been involved in some form of training relating to magazine publishing in the past year. The most popular forms of training were advertising sales, design/print or management training.

The main gaps in training identified by respondents related to the sales-related functions of sales and subscriptions.

Business Development

The most important factors in the development of the individual businesses were the sustaining of existing and developing new markets and staff skills. Developing new markets and the skills of staff were seen as particularly important by magazine publishing companies.

Legislation was perceived as one of the least important factors in business development and the quality of students/trainees was only perceived as important by 39 per cent of respondents.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents anticipated that their magazine business would grow over the next three years, with only six per cent expecting it to decline. Publishers of business/professional magazines and specialist magazine publishers were more optimistic about growth than average.

For an unabridged version of this research report

please visit


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