ABC Intro: Women's Weeklies

Emap's Closer has continued its rise up the ranks in the celebrity weekly market and its latest massive circulation increase, of 31 per cent, has tipped it over the 500,000 mark.

The title now shows signs of slowing, however, and at 5 per cent, its period growth was more modest.

Closer's publisher, Sophie Wybrew-Bond, denies that this is linked to the launch of Reveal, ACP-NatMag's new celebrity-led title. She says: "We've grown so fast that our previous figures were bound to be meteoric. It's now natural for it to start slowing down."

Reveal, the new kid on the block, posted a hastily arranged ABC for the ten issues it has published, its circulation now standing at 239,907 (of which 167,561 were sold at basic cover price).

Colin Morrison, the chief executive of ACP-NatMag, is convinced these are still early days for the title: "The ten issues of Reveal published during this period are exactly on target. Early indications for 2005 show that we're all set to continue to grow."

IPC Media's Now magazine has not been affected by the launch and remains in its long-established number-one celebrity-magazine slot. After previous declines, the title rallied to record a 6.8 per cent increase over the last six months of 2004. Evelyn Webster, IPC Connect's managing director, admits the 10p drop in price to £1 contributed to the increase, but claims this is only half the story. "The magazine has a fantastic team that produces brilliant editorial," she says. "It's testament to them that Now was the market leader when there were four magazines and it remains the market leader now there are eight."

Closer's sister title, Heat, also improved its performance this period, despite a price hike from £1 to £1.50 in the summer. Selling 552,215 copies, it overtook Northern & Shell's OK!. Wybrew-Bond says: "Even with the price rise, Heat has held its own. The brands, such as Heat, that created their markets have great brand equity and are very resilient, while the 'me too' titles won't have such an impact ."

The "easy entertainment" titles all recorded strong figures. H Bauer's market-leading Take a Break recorded a solid performance, while IPC's Chat experienced an impressive 5.2 per cent year-on-year growth.

It is too early to say with any certainty what effect the launch of Pick Me Up, IPC's real-life title, will have on these magazines, although it may find it tough to launch into a market that commands such loyalty.

Verdict - The total audience for celebrity titles is estimated to contain between two million and 2.5 million buyers. So, with the ACP-NatMag joint venture set up specifically to launch weeklies, it is highly likely that the market will reach saturation point before long. Innovation is the key if magazines want to differentiate within the crowd. The industry will also be watching to see what impact Northern & Shell's Take 5 and Emap's weekly glossy, Grazia, with its new take on A-list-only celebrity coverage, will have on the sector.

WOMEN'S WEEKLIES

TITLE Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-

period year

% change % change

Take a Break H Bauer 1,222,774 1.2 -0.4

Chat IPC 636,310 4.9 5.2

Now IPC 619,186 6.8 4.6

That's Life H Bauer 601,806 4.9 0.7

Heat Emap 552,215 2.2 -2.6

OK! Magazine Northern &

Shell 529,492 -4.4 -7.3

Woman IPC 527,764 -1.6 -6.7

Closer Emap 504,350 5.0 31.0

Woman's Own IPC 449,688 0.8 -6.1

Woman's Weekly IPC 447,696 -0.9 -1.2