June to December 2016 Magazine ABCs: The Highlights

The ABC results have been published for the period July – December 2016, and have thrown up some interesting insights which allow us to gauge the magazine market and wider context for readers’ behaviours and trends.

Immediately below is a ‘speed-read’ summary of overall trends, with a more detailed breakdown by sector following this:

  • Continuing the trend of current years there has been a general decline in circulation across the board.

  • In terms of Women’s magazines, weeklies are still taking big hits and monthlies are either static or substantially down. Titles that are shifting distribution models are seeing more positive numbers, for example, Cosmopolitan has increased circulation to more than 400,000 due to its introduction of a free distribution element as part of its circulation model.

  • Men’sare relatively stable, with marked successes for Shortlist, Monocle, and Wired.

  • In the Home Interest market, Brexit, Pinterest, and digital are the dominant influence on circulation numbers.

  • Bad news beats fake news in news and current affairs. News is the only sector which has seen an overall increase in circulation, achieving 3% YoY increase in combined print and digital circulation. This is due to the exceptional year of shock political results we’ve seen with Brexit and Trump.

  • Travel has seen verylittle change.

What does this tell us?

Print titles are having to re-examine their business from every angle in order to keep ahead in a fast changing market, and introduce innovation for their brands outside of print. This includes:

  • relooking at distribution methods

  • scrutinising cover price

  • exploring brand extensions

  • moving away from the static newsstand

  • taking the magazine to the reader, not vice versa

Despite the overall decline, we can see some titles already diversifying and progressing their offering through use of innovative distribution strategies and imaginative brand extensions.

Here are some graphs we have built demonstrating the changes described above:

This graph shows the top 15 titles by circulation:


This graph demonstrates how each sector is performing year-on-year:


This graph displays the titles that are overall doing the best:


Below is a more detailed breakdown by sector:

WOMEN’s – Monthlies static or down, and weeklies considerably down.

Across the women’s fashion and lifestyle sector there was a YoY decline of 7.2% for the 6 months July to December 2016, which is quite a significant increase on the previous 6-month report (-0.5%). Overall, premium monthlies were down 3% YoY.

  • InStyle closed its print edition, and will launch a solely digital offering in 2017. This digital-only approach follows models such as Refinery29, who focus on online content to satisfy consumer taste for ‘always on’ content.

  • The Hearst distribution strategy of introducing a free element for certain titles is interesting because it has contributed to Cosmopolitan maintaining its position as market leader for monthly magazines targeted at a younger audience. Circulation is 407,622 which is up 0.6% YoY. This confirms confidence in the title’s dynamic distribution strategy.

  • Good Housekeeping saw an increase of 10.3% in print circulation YoY, and remains Britain’s biggest-selling women’s lifestyle magazine with a combined circulation of 454,697.

  • The cultural phenomenon of athleisure and wellness has undoubtedly aided Women’s Health’s increase in print circulation of 2.18% YoY. We expect to see continued positive buzz around fitness and wellness titles.

  • Glamour’s combined circulation has fallen substantially by 26% YoY, but will their changed tactics of a larger print format in 2017 affect results this summer?

  • Time Inc’s significant efforts to extend their brands with retail offerings, such as Marie Claire and Fabled, are yet to show significant results, with Marie Claire decreasing 12.9% YoY.

  • Overall, women’s weeklies saw negative results, with their average combined circulation decreasing by 16.2% YoY. OK and Look saw decreased print circulations of 32% and 22% respectively. Whilst Hello! And Grazia similarly saw dramatic decreases in their print circulations, their digital performance was more positive (17% for Hello).


MEN’S – Relatively stable

In the men’s sector, Shortlist comes top, with its free circulation of 500k+ changing less than 1% for the third period in a row. Not all free titles are faring so well, however; Sport and Coach have ceased publishing.

Reacting to the success of free titles, premium titles are experimenting with elements of free circulation to bolster their figures and ensure that they’re reaching a wide readership:

  • Esquire’s print circulation has seen an 8% rise YoY, driven by a 34% YoY increase in free circulation that has seen newsstand copies cut back.

  • GQ has pursued a similar strategy, increasing free circulation by 40% YoY, decreasing newsstand copies by 10%, and primarily distributing free copies through high end gyms.

  • Men’s Health still holds the highest paid circulation in the sector, but is focused on growth outside of the print product, with lines of fitness equipment and nutrition supplements alongside the fitness event series Survival of the Fittest.

  • Monocle keeps its entirely paid circulation strong with a 5% increase PoP.

  • WIRED is pushing the category and by acting beyond print, for instance, with events and podcasts. This strategy has paid off, gaining the title a 1% increase in circulation YoY, including actively purchased copies. This is an impressive result for a smaller niche title, indicating that the thirst for future-gazing and tech news is on the rise.

As in other sectors, men’s titles are attempting to counteract the print market’s downward trend by diversifying and offering more comprehensive lifestyle choices for consumers to buy into.


HOME – Pinterest, Brexit, and Digital steal circulation

Many titles in the home interest sector have seen a decrease in circulation YoY, with only four titles seeing an increase. After Britain’s decision to leave the EU on May 23rd the housing market dropped. This has had an immediate repercussion for the home interest magazine market; consumers are less likely to be looking for home décor and interior inspiration. Digital is also stealing home décor lovers from print: Pinterest has 251 million pins on home décor alone and is the third most popular category on the platform.

  • Contrary to overall decline across the home interest market, the only titles to have seen an increase in circulation YoY are Elle Decoration, Country Living, Good Homes, and House Beautiful.

  • Homes & Gardens is the only title which has maintained similar circulation figures both YoY and PoP; which in a declining market is an impressive performance.

  • People are turning to digital for home décor inspiration. The number of monthly users on Pinterest has surpassed 150m. Pinterest offers an excellent opportunity for brands to benefit from ‘pinners’ searching and planning. Brands can appear in a non-intrusive way when consumers are in the perfect mind-set to discover new products and services.

  • Supporting this shift of consumers looking to find inspiration online, most home interest titles have seen a remarkable increase in digital circulation; Country Living and Elle Decor’s digital circulation has increased 73% and 47% respectively YoY and Elle Decoration online has seen 60% more users YoY.


NEWS / CURRENT AFFAIRS –Bad news beats fake news

2016 was a year that few will forget. The rise in “fake news” has led the public to question where they place their trust, as social media and online news sites have now become susceptible to unverified stories. This understanding of the market is supported by the most recent results for the sector.

  • News and current affairs publications have seen a 3% YoY increase in combined print and digital circulation, resulting in an average circulation of 187,360. This growth has largely been driven by the impressive results reported by Private Eye and The Spectator.

  • Private Eye surpassed The Economist as the country’s most circulated news publication, reaching its highest circulation in its history.

  • However, whilst The Economist has done away with bulk copies, Private Eye has placed a greater emphasis on this as a distribution method, increasing 16% YoY. The publication’s strength can also be seen in its broad appeal. Whilst other publication’s readership is highly concentrated in London and the South East, only a quarter of Private Eye’s readership lives in this region compared to half for The Economist.

As we move into 2017, it will be interesting to see how these news titles fare. With the rapid unrolling of Trump’s policy agenda and crucial elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany this year, it is unlikely that we will see a decrease in the need for news publications acting as the bastion of reliable and trustworthy reporting.


TRAVEL – Little change

According to The Global Business Travel Association, the travel sector is growing. They predict an ‘average growth rate of 5.8% year-on-year for business travel until 2020’. Despite this predicted market growth, the holiday and travel publishing sector is performing relatively poorly. Combined circulation has decreased by 3.9% YoY, resulting in an average circulation of 377,097.

  • The Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s new marketing subscription strategy has worked well: a more loyal readership base has evolved from rewarding subscription offers. The subscription base has increased by 7,342 YoY.

  • Condé Nast Traveller has seen a slight decline in print circulation at 0.22% PoP, but is still the second largest title in the sector with a combined circulation of 76,231; 39% more than Sunday Times Travel. The title also posted a rise of UK actively purchased copies in the same period of 4.2%.