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ABC magazine analysis: New circulation figures reward publishers for their innovation

By James Tyrell

February 14, 2014 | 4 min read

The magazine ABC results this period brought with them some big changes to the way magazines' figures are recorded.

Tech-savvy T3 mag enjoyed growth

After much pressure from agencies and publishers alike, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has finally acknowledged tablet editions and incorporated these figures into one ‘Combined Total Circulation Certificate’.This in turn has led to a more positive set of results for publishers who’ve invested in tablet product extensions.

While critics will raise questions over duplication, it’s important to hold onto the fact this is a big step forward and will hopefully serve as a stepping stone towards a clearer and unified way of trading in the digital magazine space.

Looking solely at digital editions there are some interesting ‘movers and shakers’ with tech monthly titles making a surge into the top ten. Both T3 (22,319; +100 per cent) and Stuff (14,949; +194 per cent) now hold the top and third spot respectively, neither of which hit the top end of the table in the last set of results. T3 has impressively embraced the market trend and now boasts over 40 per cent of its circulation via tablet.

GQ and Men’s Health continue to lead the way in the men’s lifestyle market while Vogue and Vanity Fair head up women’s fashion, posting the highest digital distribution within their sector at 8.3k and 8.6k respectively. Six publishers, Future, Condé Nast, Haymarket, BBC, Economist Newspaper Ltd and Immediate Media all have titles within the top ten. A positive and diverse result which proves tablet is still high on everyone’s agenda.

Innovation in the sector has also been prevalent over the last six months with publishers continuing, rightly so, to invest in new brand products in order to capture the attention of the consumer. (The Debrief, Esquire Weekly, Ignition and Neverunderdressed to name a few of these relatively recent digital launches.) It remains increasingly important for publishers to look outside of print norms to secure and build on established brands. ‘Heat’ is a great example of how a traditional print title has expanded into new relevant territories (TV/radio/online) successfully and as a result its sales proposition is a compelling one. In my experience this is exactly what advertisers are looking for more than ever, buying into a ‘brand’ as opposed to a magazine and forming meaningful partnerships across multiple platforms.

While we know that the ‘Free Model’ remains robust against the auditing process it would be remiss not to acknowledge their continued strength in this period. Sport, Shortlist and Stylist all coincidentally posted +0.6 per cent year-on-year increases. With the imminent launch of Stylist's digital edition, we anticipate further improved results next period. added a further +600 to its circulation taking it up to just shy of an impressive 450k. These strong results alongside paid-for titles Good Housekeeping, Woman & Home and Prima went some way towards bucking the trend of the women’s lifestyle market which collectively posted a -6.6 per cent year-on-year decrease, an improvement from the last set of results.

There’s been a lot of ‘positives’ with these set of ABCs however we must recognise that in general print has declined across many sectors albeit more marginally than in previous periods. As well as looking to innovate and find new or migrating consumers on digital platforms, the traditional print medium is still incredibly influential and one of the most trusted channels.

The loyal subscriber is arguably one of magazines' most valuable assets and it will be interesting to see over the forthcoming year how publishers look to retain and hopefully build back up the volume of consumers regularly interacting with their print brands.

James Tyrell is investment director at Havas Media


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