ABCs show some magazine publishers are slowly waking up to new ways of reaching readers

As usual it was a mixed bag of fortunes from the latest magazine ABCs. Readers getting celebrity fixes online has continued to make a difference to the traditional celebrity gossip magazines and Cosmopolitan's cover price reduction and a strategy of taking the distribution to its audiences has paid off; sounds simple but it has still taken the magazine world a long time to adopt new ways of getting into the hands of their consumers.

One of the headline results of the latest consumer magazine ABCs has to be the dramatic increase in circulation reported for OK! Magazine. The Northern & Shell title saw a 38 per cent period on period increase which is head and shoulders above any other results posted in the women’s weekly market. A good result which may have been influenced due to the heavy cross promotional activity within its portfolio and incentives it has been running in store.

Only three other women’s weeklies had positive news to share with the majority of the sector showing marginal losses to circulation. The hardest hit included Heat, Star, reveal and Now! which all showed more than a 20 per cent decline year on year.

The men's market was always going to be an interesting one after the recent demise of Zoo and FHM. There was a varied set of results this time round with Forever Sports reporting yet another increase, up 15.9 per cent period on period taking total printed circulation beyond the 100,000 mark. This positive development draws it ever closer to GQ in third spot which posted a minimal decrease, largely down to the declining digital edition (-16.3 year on year).

The ‘frees’, Shortlist and Sport, both saw minor increases across the period +0.7 per cent and +0.2 per cent respectively which wasn’t a huge surprise given their distribution model gives them slightly more control. With a bumper year of action ahead with the likes of the Euros football championships and Olympics it will be interesting to see where the more ‘sporty’ titles net out in 2016. It will also be intriguing to see where Dennis’ recently launched Coach magazine enters the market over the forthcoming year.

The women's lifestyle sector did not fair so well with only a handful of publications announcing increases year on year. John Lewis Edition, still the highest circulating title in the sector, bolstered its figures by +17 per cent year on year to 572,380. This was the second largest reported increase behind Cosmopolitan which was up +56.8 per cent year on year. A combination of a relaunch in October, a reduced £1 cover price for that month and free distribution via Westfield, gyms and coffee shops clearly paid dividends in growing its audience. Marie Claire is probably kicking itself that it was not the first to do this but retaliated with a cover price decrease for the February issue. The refresh of Instyle seems to have made a difference with a very slight decrease this time around.

Time Inc titles, Look (-25.4 per cent) and Essentials (-17.8 per cent) were the hardest hit, both posting double digit declines year on year. Vogue saw a slight dip, down -2.6 per cent year on year but showed improved figures across its digital edition, which is quite contrary compared to the rest of the digital editions in the sector. Vogue also celebrates 100 years of publishing with the June edition which is sure to impact on its circulation in the next consumer ABCs.

It has been a poor set of ABCs for the home interest market with more people turning to social media such as Pinterest for inspiration. That said, there have been a couple of titles seeing overall increases including Home & Gardens (+2.5 per cent period on period) and Elle Deco (+0.9 per cent period on period) proving there is still a keen audience for these inspirational titles.

Style at Home has had a particularly weak set of results with a decline -6.6 per cent period on period, which will be very disappointing for Time inc following on from a strong result in the last release. The most notable increase follows on from Media 10's acquisition of Good Homes in late 2014, showing that the shakeup of editorial and changes to the format have paid off with a significant increase of 45.2 per cent year on year.

There haven’t been a flurry of positive stories with this latest set of ABCs, however the consumer market remains an incredibly influential one and collectively still reaches over 33.4 million on a monthly basis. Print continues to be a ‘go to’ medium for brands to engage with consumers and with recent launches/relaunches of Coach, NME, Cosmo, InStyle et al, publishers are continuing to diversify in an effort to buck the declining trend.

James Tyrell is group publishing director at Havas Media Group

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