Women's Magazine ABCs - Titles Need to Adapt to Arrest Decline

The women's lifestyle sector is not holding up as well as it did in the second half of 2011, with the majority of titles recording declines. Actively purchased magazines have continued to fall with an overall year on year (YoY) decrease of -5.1% and period on period (PoP) of -3.4%.More!, Company, Look, Hello!, Grazia and Glamour, were among the worst hit. However, freebie Stylist enjoyed positive results and Easy Living posted a stand-out performance, bucking the overall market trend.Womens_Magazine_ABC_Figures_Jan_Jun_2012 Just eight titles in the latest round of ABC analysis saw a YoY circulation uplift, only four posting PoP increases. Stylist, Easy Living and Image were the only titles to see a positive YoY and PoP change and there is great debate on the ongoing decline of this sector.Flicking through one of June's glossy women's mags is like entering a time machine. The voice doesn't seem to have evolved – it doesn't acknowledge the way women speak now.  Sites like Twitter and blogs are a more contemporary forum for venting female topics, leaving many magazines having to invest not only heavily into reader research but also their ever expanding multimedia channels just to stay relevant.Womens_Magazine_ABCs_YoY_ComparisonsHearst UK tackled this issue head on with extensive research into how young women are now consuming the magazine market. This has had a huge effect on their revamped Company magazine (previously referred to as Cosmo’s little sister) and also the twice yearly and recently renamed The Edit. The research undertaken showed that girls were more interested in blogs and the more organic opinions that come from them. They no longer want to be told to buy the newest looks in season, but want to be inspired in how to mix new looks with what they already have.Criticisms of magazines, particularly Grazia and Cosmopolitan, include how they project the idea that women should be constantly self-criticising and ‘improving’ themselves. Although these titles are written from the perspective of a best friend, who will help them out with these problems, consumers are actually feeling that they make matters worse. It seems that some readers have moved on from this style of writing and transitioned into the age of the blogs.Reinforcing these findings, it seems as though the weekly magazine market’s appeal has waned, with historic favourites such as Grazia, more!, Hello, Reveal and Look being amongst the worst decliners for the season. It is evident that with the younger part of the population having to tighten their belts, and the ever-expanding availability of such content online, the target audience for these magazines are finding less and less reason to purchase these publications. Titles such as Ok! are beginning to adapt to the latest in celebrity trends to fight this transition - for instance, the invigorated interest in the Royals. However, longevity will ultimately come from adaption and extention into opportunities across other media.Even with their 7.5% decrease PoP Abby Carvasso, managing director of Grazia magazine, has said that: "Grazia is the only title to tap into the upscale environment every week. That is its point of difference. The demand from advertisers is at an all-time high."Carvasso also justified the falls of more! magazine by saying the title had received no marketing or price-promotion in the six month period ahead of its re-launch in June, adding that the title will now be relevant to the people of today.With so much competition from titles such as Look and also the revamp of Company magazine, it will be interesting to see how more! continues to try and outsell the competition.Ok! and Star’s decline has been attributed to a lack of investment, and not having brand extensions. Also, readers aren’t just after celebs - they want fashion and/or real life as well. The market continues to have its challenges but despite this, Ok! Magazine has maintained its position as the UK's bestselling glossy celebrity weekly, selling over 36% more copies than Hello! at the UK newsstand.On the opposite side of the scale, free publication Stylist has moved into the top 3 circulating titles after increases of 1.1% YoY and 0.8% PoP. For the first time it falls into line closely behind the ever strong Glamour magazine, which still retains its crown in the number 1 position.  The primary reason behind this is that it’s managed to buck the trend of being a vapid fashion magazine and has successfully combined more attainable fashion and beauty with travel, lifestyle, witty columns and intelligent, original features. It engages with, instead of patronising, its readers so it’s no wonder their UK city expansion continues at a rate of knots!Despite another fall in sales, Glamour is still holding on to the top spot with 470,138 copies sold in this period. Available in a compact, handbag-friendly size, Glamour manages to achieve the same things as its nearest competitor in the monthly arena - Cosmopolitan - but without the £3.40-odd price tag. Editor Jo Elvin has achieved a consistently casual and friendly tone throughout the magazine, really helping the reader to get to know the team and see them as ‘women like us’. The main strength of the magazine is the sense that it is a publication for your average modern woman. It is, in a sense, the perfect compromise between the fast fix weeklies and high-fashion publications.Easy Living, however, has been the long awaited star of this season's results and has seen the greatest increase of 17.1% PoP following the magazine’s redesign and arrival of new editor Deborah Joseph, supported by an extensive marketing campaign. It now has a broader array of beautiful and useful solutions for every aspect of modern living and is aligning itself perfectly with the  yummy mummy 50 shades zeitgeist under the guise of its new '@Passion’ section – expect sales to go through the roof!At the slightly older end of the middle youth market, Good Housekeeping’s 8.8% decrease PoP caused its drop down the leaderboard. With this title, Hearst has adopted a multi-brand approach, including related products, books and the imminent launch of Goodhousekeeping.co.uk in September.  Woman & Home, which had been slowly climbing, also suffered a decline. This once more is attributed to the growing strength of ‘Generation Y not’ within the digital market and the older generation of women becoming more savvy and confident with new technology.Overall for the close of 2012’s reporting we saw an underwhelming set of ABC figures  with only a handful of titles coming out victorious over the year.  The real interest for the future is the increase in digital editions, iPad and mobile and the reporting of those.  Magazines will need to ensure that they are speaking about all their touchpoints not just the paper format.