Print continues decline in latest magazine ABCs

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, February 19, 2018

The latest consumer magazine reports from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) have shown a continued overall decline for print, although some sectors bucked the trend.

The figures, released last week and covering the six-month period to the end of 2017, showed that overall print circulation across the entire market fell by 5%, while digital purchases grew by 3%, and online readership for consumer magazines jumped by 37%.

There were large declines for international news and current affairs titles, which fell by 15% year-on-year. News and current affairs titles relating to business and finances dropped by 6% while science-related titles fell by 5%.

Domestic news and current affairs titles, however, saw circulation grow by 1%.

The Spectator was one of the sector’s success stories, with its print sales reaching a record high. The title’s total circulation figure was up 7% year-on-year to 85,172, and print sales made up 62,940 of this total, surpassing its previous print peak in 2006.

The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson said: “Digital is behind the renaissance of print. The website brings millions of people to The Spectator and they can read two articles a week before being invited to subscribe for full access. When they do, the vast majority choose our print and digital package.

“Then, those who never thought they’d get into the habit of reading a print magazine find that they’re hooked.

“So digital is not a threat to print. In our experience, digital has led to renaissance of print.”

The Economist, meanwhile, grew its circulation by 8% year-on-year to 254,129, while Prospect magazine jumped by 37% to 44,670.

But Private Eye saw a circulation decline of 1% to 246,628, The Week fell by 1.8% to 202,617 and Time Magazine fell by 18% to 76,052, while Time’s Fortune Magazine dropped by 32% to 58,780.

Among the other hardest hit sectors once again was women’s weeklies, which saw circulation drop by 11% overall. Now dropped by 25% year-on-year to 78,619, Woman fell by 20% to 166,573 and New! fell by 17% to 170,887.

The only titles to post increases in this sector were Love It!, up by 2% to 84,465, Bella, up by 1% to 164,051, and Take A Break Series, which leapt by 25% to 212,560.

Women’s general interest fell by 9%, women’s health and beauty dropped by 7%, and women’s lifestyle/fashion declined by 4%.

Other sectors experiencing notable declines were general interest – retirement, which fell by 14%, and motoring and motorcycling, which dropped by 6%.

Bucking the general trend was the men’s lifestyle general sector, which grew its circulation by 6%. A number of leisure interests sectors also experienced growth, with literary up by 10%, camping/walking/climbing up by 4%, photography up by 4%, holiday and travel up by 3%, and equestrian up by 2%.

Graham Martin, head of publishing at Total Media, told Mediatel Newsline: “The fact that circulation of print is down 5% across the market is, of course, a concern – but the fact that the country and countryside sector has seen such a sharp increase shows that consumers will continue to buy specialist content that they cannot find elsewhere.

“The growth of key home and countryside titles, compared to a 6% decline in current affairs, indicates we have shifted to a 'grass is greener' mentality.

“There is a pervading 'bad news' culture, propelled by the likes of Brexit and Trump that has caused us to become fatigued by the same type of news stories dominating the agenda. It's a concern, but in the long run, as the war on fake news and clickbait rages on, high-quality publishing will remain crucial for readers and advertisers alike.”

The most successful title in the six-month period was The National Trust Magazine, with circulation up 4% year-on-year at 2,407,219. Tesco Magazine was second, with circulation down 0.2% to 1,928,220 and Asda’s Good Living magazine was third, with circulation down by 4% to 1,774,500.

TV Choice, the UK’s biggest paid-for title, saw its circulation drop by 2.5% year-on-year to 1,188,558.

The printing of this title, which was moved to the continent after the collapse of Polestar, has now partially returned to the UK, with YM Chantry taking over from Netherlands-based Roto Smeets as one of its two printers, alongside Bauer’s own continental print plant BPW.

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