Mixed fortunes for print titles in latest ABC results

Sarah Cosgrove
Friday, February 12, 2016

Consumer magazine print runs have declined overall but there are some winners in the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

On average print titles saw a 17% fall in circulations, although this was counterbalanced in many cases by rises in digital readership.

In print, membership title The National Trust magazine continues to rule the roost with a circulation of 2.2 million, up 3.1% compared with the second half of 2014, closely followed by Asda and Tesco giveaways Good Living and Tesco Magazine at 2 million and 1.9 million respectively.

TV Choice is the top performing paid-for magazine at 1.3 million circulated copies, slightly down by 0.6% July–December 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, and marginally up, by 0.2%, year-on-year.

Print circulation losers include Reader’s Digest, down 33% since H2 2014 and 27.3% year-on-year to 102,701; Prima Baby, down 30.6% in the six months and 34.1% year-on-year to 8,154; Women’s Fitness, which has seen circulation decline by 26.4% in the six months or 22.9% year-on-year; and All About Soap, which dropped 20% in H2 and by 33% year-on-year to 34,232.   

Celebrity and gossip magazines Star, Now and Heat all saw year-on-year reductions of just over 20%, with New! faring slightly better with a 18.1% print drop.

But some print titles bucked the trend.

Following a cut in its cover price to £1, women’s monthly Cosmopolitan saw a surge in circulation of 58.2% to 401,090 in July to December 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, contributing the bulk of the title's 59% year-on-year rise.

Chief executive of publisher Hearst Magazines UK Anna Jones, said the company was pleased to see its new marketing and distribution strategy for Cosmopolitan was working.

“Our innovative new route-to-market programmes, together with unmissable point-of-sale promotion through traditional retailers, has allowed us to get [the magazine's] brilliant content out to an even bigger audience,” she said.

Satirical magazine Private Eye, which said it had recorded its highest ABC circulation since 1986 in July, remains the UK’s best-selling news and current affairs magazine. Its circulation rose to 229,777 for the six months, up 0.7% compared with H2 in 2014 and 4.7% year-on-year. 

The UK edition of The Economist reversed a 0.7% year-on-year decline to rise by 3.1% in H2 of 2015.

OK! magazine dropped 5.4% year-on-year but jumped up 38.6% in the second half of 2015 to 270,260, compared with H2 in 2014. 

Haymarket fitness monthly, Forever Sports magazine, saw a rise of 15.9% in H2 2015, compared with the previous year, and 16.5% year-on-year to 104,974. Slimming World magazine, the Take a Break Series, the BBC Home Cooking Series and Psychologies magazine all saw H2 rises of 10% or more.

Free titles have also seen an improvement in fortunes. Former online-focused listings title, The List, saw the biggest year-on-year increase in print, up 66.5% to 24,991.

Music and culture weekly NME’s circulation cannot be compared like-for-like as it went free in September. Its first ABC figure in its new guise shows a 1,897% jump in the magazine's circulation, taking it to 307,217, almost as high as Time Out, which went free in 2012 and more or less held steady at 308,995.

This is the NME's highest circulation in its 64-year history. In H2 2014, the Time Inc UK brand had printed just 15,384 copies. Free fashion and lifestyle title Stylist also saw a slight rise to 404,014.

Managing director of Time Inc UK’s Innovation Group Paul Cheal said: “NME magazine plays a key role in our multi-platform proposition. Not only are we now reaching more people every week in print, but there has been a compound effect on our other platforms."

Despite smaller circulations overall, children’s magazines continued to enjoy steady growth. Toybox was up 18.5% on period-on period and 19.1% year-on-year to 29,761; LEGO Friends rose 15.1% during the six months and 3.9% year-on-year to 41,528. 

Girl Talk’s circulation also rose by 17.2% in H2 of 2014 and 1.8% year-on-year to 35,680. CBeebies spin-offs CBeebies Art and Mister Maker also saw a rise. Mike the Knight, however, was down by just over a third in both H2 of 2015 and year-on-year to 16,824.

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