Current affairs and home titles prosper in Covid hit mag ABCs

Richard Stuart-Turner
Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A number of titles covering the news and current affairs and home and garden sectors bucked a general downward trend in a Covid-19 hit market according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) consumer magazine reports.

A number of current affairs and home titles performed well in 2020
A number of current affairs and home titles performed well in 2020

The newly released data, which covered the final six months of 2020 – though some titles reported for the full-year – suggested a hankering for information and analysis on the pandemic.

The Big Issue experienced growth of 13% year-on-year to 47,973 copies and The Spectator saw an 11% increase to 91,165. The Week Junior, meanwhile, leapt by 36% to 98,246.

Others saw slight dips, with Private Eye’s circulation down 2% year-on-year to 236,705 and New Statesman down 3% to 36,591, but these were nevertheless trending ahead of an average 6% fall year-on-year in UK consumer magazine circulation, according to calculations by Press Gazette.

While the pandemic saw non-essential retail shuttered on and off during the year, hitting newsstand sales of many titles, some magazines experienced a significant increase in subscriptions.

These included the aforementioned New Statesman, which despite its overall circulation fall in 2020 grew its paid-for digital subscriptions by 75% and its print subscriptions by 12%.

New Statesman Media Group chief marketing officer Robert Jay attributed the increase to quality journalism.

“Revenues are up as audiences increasingly recognise the quality of our products. To have paid digital subscriptions up 75% and paid print subscriptions up 12% in such a short time is testament to the vision of the team.”

With people spending more time at home in 2020 due to the pandemic, a large number of titles related to home and gardening and other hobbies also experienced increased success.

From Immediate Media, BBC Gardeners’ World magazine posted a 33% increase in circulation across print and digital to 226,806, BBC Good Food saw circulation up by 10% year-on-year to 200,039 and Olive recorded annual growth of 38% to 40,580 copies.

The publisher said circulation for its magazines was up 9% overall for titles reporting July to December 2020, while its subscribers grew to over 1 million, a 14% increase year-on-year. These had grown further, to nearly 1.2 million, as of January 2021.

Immediate chief executive Tom Bureau said: “These results demonstrate the enduring appeal of Immediate’s brands, both in print and digital.

“Our special interest brands, in these extraordinary times, have become more important than ever to our audiences, helping them get the most out of their passions and hobbies, whether that be cooking, gardening, cycling or watching the latest streaming sensation.

“In the last year we have grown our paid and premium reach across all platforms, a testament to our commitment to consistently deliver world class content and create a platform for further growth.”

Other big increases in circulation were seen by Garden Answers (up 35%), Real Homes (up 26%), Landscape (up 25%), Garden News (up 18%), Car (up 16%), Classic & Sports Car (up 16%), Style At Home (up 15%) and Country Walking (up 15%).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, large falls in circulation were experienced by ES Magazine, the free weekly lifestyle title from the Evening Standard (down 49%), Mr Tumble Something Special (down 37%) and Slimming World Magazine (down 36%).

The women’s weeklies (down 15% year-on-year) and women’s lifestyle/fashion sectors (down 7%) continued on their downward trajectory, with major circulation declines seen for titles including Heat (down 35%), Closer (down 32%), New! (down 29%), OK! Magazine (down 28%) and Hello! (down 20%).

The title with the biggest circulation in the six-month period was The National Trust Magazine, which recorded an increase of 1% year-on-year to 2,693,892.

Tesco Magazine, which posted circulation down 1% to 1,913,746, was second while Asda Magazine was third with circulation up 2% to 1,825,000.

The UK’s biggest paid-for title, TV Choice, was fourth, with circulation down by 5% to 1,041,826.

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