Magazine ABCs July-Dec 2006: Motoring magazines

By Noel Bussey, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 February 2007 12:00AM

The biggest result in this sector, and one of the most significant within this particular ABC period, is that BBC Magazines' Top Gear has now overtaken the men's magazine Loaded in terms of sales. For a motoring title to become the third biggest-selling men's monthly title is impressive, and is perhaps a telling portent for the future of IPC's "godfather of laddism".

It is also a testament to the style and publishing values of the slick motoring title, and the power of a weekly TV endorsement.

Adam Waddell, the publishing director of BBC Top Gear, says: "We ran them close last time around, so it's not a massive surprise to us; it's going to help in our pitch to agencies and retailers.

"It seems that there is such a passion for the magazine that there is no reason why we can't keep on growing."

Overall, though, the market seems to be struggling through quite a difficult period, with BBC Top Gear's closest rival, Haymarket's What Car?, down by almost 10 per cent year on year.

However, despite this drop, Patrick Fuller, the publishing director of Haymarket's motoring titles, is still confident about the title.

"What Car? as a brand is reaching more people than ever before; it has never been stronger editorially. We have also just passed the one-million-a-month mark for unique users on the www.whatcar.com website," he says.

A few years ago, Emap's Car was keeping pace with BBC Top Gear, and was enjoying really robust sales, but this time around, the magazine has endured an absolute nightmare.

Not only did its competitor, Evo, overtake it for the first time ever, but it also saw its sales drop by 21 per cent year on year. On top of that, the title relaunched in an A4 size, only to revert back to its original design just three issues later, which knocked a great deal of confidence out of the magazine.

However, a sector that seems to have totally collapsed in front of its publishers' eyes is the once lauded "modding" sector. Max Power, Fast Car and Redline saw year-on-year sales decreases of 39 per cent, 42 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

Three years ago, before the hugely ill-fated relaunch that saw it increase its "tits 'n' ass" coverage to almost pornlike proportions, Max Power was looking as if it would overtake BBC Top Gear and claim pole position.

However, its current sales of just 71,000 copies a month shows just how far behind the mainstream competition the title is.

Waddell says: "The market has changed so much that the modding titles have been left behind. They used to be where young lads went to look at semi-naked ladies. But now they have Nuts and Zoo to do that.

"Plus, a lot of people that are in to modding can get all the information they need from the web. Obviously, coping with the internet affects the whole publishing industry, but this sector has been particularly badly hit."

However, Emap has begun to take advantage of this decline by investing in maxpower.co.uk, which seems to be picking up the readers that the print issue is losing.

Ian Templeton, the group managing director of Emap Automotive, says: "Following a challenging year, Car and Max Power now have the right editorial proposition in place. For the automotive market, the next 12 months will be about becoming even more relevant to our audiences, wherever and however they wish to be communicated to."

Verdict BBC Top Gear will continue to pull away from the rest of the pack in the future, which means it is up to the other titles to try to find new and entertaining ways of keeping pace with the BBC Magazines title. Following the lead of Max Power and What Car? and investing in websites could be one of these.

MOTORING
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
BBC Top Gear BBC Magazines 190,032 5.8 8.5
What Car? Haymarket 111,093 -7.6 -9.3
Auto Express Dennis 86,003 -1.2 -4.7
Classic & Sports
Car Haymarket 81,766 2.2 5.0
Evo Dennis 75,512 2.3 2.9
Car Emap 73,734 -6.5 -21.6
Max Power Emap 71,574 -22.3 -39.7
F1 Racing (UK) Haymarket 64,897 n/a -7.2
Practical Classics
& Car Restorer Emap 60,039 -0.7 -4.9
Autocar Haymarket 57,005 -6.4 -8.9
Fast Car Future 54,772 -22.5 -42.9
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2006.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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