Subscriptions saw growth

Scant success for print in latest ABCs

Various news and leisure titles have performed well
PPA CEO said print remains important, but doesn’t tell the full story

The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) consumer media report makes grim reading for print, with just a handful of titles showing print circulation increases against a backdrop of significant falls for many.

The data, which was released yesterday (20 February), revealed that only a few titles posted a year-on year increase in UK/ROI total print circulation.

The few star print performers among actively purchased titles included National Geographic Traveller (print edition circulation up 7% year-on-year), Ireland's Kitchen Guide (print edition up 4%), Ulster Tatler (print edition up 3%), Airfix Model World (print edition up 2%), Classic Bike (print edition up 2%), House & Garden (print edition up 2%), and Classic Cars (print edition up 1%).

Taking combined print and digital circulation into consideration, success stories included Espresso (combined circulation up 87% year-on-year), BBC Science Focus (up 25% combined), and Wanderlust (up 25% combined).

Titles experiencing the biggest falls in their UK/ROI total print circulation included Grazia (print edition down 31% year-on-year), OK! Magazine (also down 31%), Cosmopolitan (down 29%), Style at Home (also down 29%), and New! (down 28%).

Three of these titles had their print falls cushioned by digital growth, with Grazia’s digital copies up 51% year-on-year, Cosmopolitan’s digital copies up 64%, and digital copies of New! up by 16%.

Across the board though, digital gains were not in many cases enough to offset the declines seen in print, and most titles recorded overall circulation declines when print and digital were combined. Grazia, for example, was down 21% overall despite its digital growth.

ABC said that, overall in 2023, just shy of half a billion print and digital copies published by 64 media owners went direct to consumers, covering 52 different market sectors.

Digital copies saw an increase of 19% compared to the previous year. And consumer commitment to magazines was illustrated by the strength of subscriptions numbers, which represented 32% of total circulation, with digital subscriptions increasing by 16% year-on-year.

PPA CEO Sajeeda Merali said print remains important, but doesn’t tell the full story.

"Every publisher is taking a different and unique approach based on their brands, content and audiences. One size no longer fits all. Market conditions are unpredictable, and there are a variety of ways that publishers can be successful."

She said 96% of the PPA's members are multi-platform, operating across five or more channels, with a presence across digital, print, apps, podcasts and audio, events and social, and that format and platform choice is considered strategically, based on the purpose of connecting with the consumer.

Merali further added: “The importance of quality and trusted journalism is more important than ever. Recent studies from both Edelman and Credos show a decline in confidence in advertisers and businesses, and trust levels at an all-time low.

“There is also real concern around the validity of news and the less favourable side of AI use.

“Magazine brands set the standards when it comes to trust and quality, providing true, vetted and relevant content. In a recent PPA Magnetic survey, print magazines came top versus other media when it came to trust. Advertisers benefit from associating their brand with high-quality content which drives positive changes in consumer behaviour.”

Bauer Media remained the UK’s biggest-selling magazine publisher, with more than 105 million audited copies circulated in 2023.

Bauer said 14 of its titles emerged as leaders in their respective competitive markets, and it hailed the aforementioned print success of Classic Bike, while also noting that 93% of its digital brands recorded an increase in digital circulation in 2023.

Chris Duncan, Bauer Media’s CEO of UK Publishing, said: “We are extremely proud to see Bauer retain its position as the UK’s biggest publisher of consumer magazines with a set of results that demonstrate the wide reach of our brand portfolio, both in print and digitally.

“Our continued position as the leader across many markets is a true testament to our teams’ ability to produce content that consistently attracts highly engaged and loyal audiences.

“A heartfelt thanks goes out to all our hardworking teams, retailers and advertisers, and our millions of loyal readers. Bauer remains committed to working with our partners to continue to innovate and evolve our exceptional content in 2024.”

The titles with the biggest print circulations in 2023 included Tesco Magazine, with 1,500,520 copies representing no percentage change in circulation compared to last year; Asda Magazine, with a circulation of 1,000,000 – the title’s ABC figure was not recorded last year; and TV Choice, which saw its circulation fall by 5% year-on-year to 923,984, but it remained the UK’s biggest paid-for print title.

Waitrose & Partners Food (down 3% to 662,079), The RSPB Magazine (down 2% to 576,722), and What's on TV (down 6% to 551,290) were the other biggest titles.