ABC REPORT: CUSTOMER TITLES

Sky topped six million this year, reflecting the growth of Sky's TV subscriber base, as Claire Billings notes.

Ten of the top 20 magazines in the latest set of circulation figures are customer titles, as advertisers increasingly look to the medium for building relationships with customers.

Although the size of most customer titles is dependent on the company's performance, these magazines are an effective way of telling existing customers about what's on offer.

At the top of the pile is Sky magazine, published by John Brown Citrus Publishing, with a circulation of 6,390,585, up 10.3 per cent on the previous year. This rise is a reflection of the service's growing digital TV offering, which now has more than seven million subscribers.

Another company with a large database takes the second spot in the ABC's top 100 titles. The AA decided to split its customer offering into two titles and databases at the end of last year. It came in at number two with the larger of the magazines, Near and Far, which debuted at 3,007,480.

The smaller magazine, Q&, had a distribution of 1,001,236. Both titles are published by Forward.

While these titles are examples of companies sending out magazines to customers on a database, some magazines still do well when they are actively collected by consumers.

Asda Magazine, published by Publicis Blueprint, soared 30.2 per cent to 2,266,760, as demand outstripped the number of copies available and the print run was increased. The title is available in entrance areas on stands and copies are picked up by customers rather than handed out.

Sainsbury's: The Magazine, produced by New Crane, dipped 4.5 per cent while Safeway magazine, through Redwood, fell 13.3 per cent to 1,515,210.

Safeway magazine is distributed at checkouts and the fall in its circulation reflects cutbacks made by the retailer.

Julia Hutchison, the director of the Association of Publishing Agencies, comments: "The most popular types of magazines (with consumers) are those produced by supermarkets, which almost half of all adults claim to have seen."

Keith Granger, the chief executive of Redwood, says: "I think it's more than a coincidence that the paid-for practical titles such as Prima and Family Circle are in decline, which coincides with a growth in customer supermarket titles."

This could also be explained by the new entrant Ikea Rooms, published by Highbury Cabal, which posted its second ABC this time round with a distribution of 402,808.

Another title carrying the fight for customer magazines, is Waitrose Food Illustrated, published by John Brown Citrus Publishing. It costs £2 in store, 3 per cent of its readership pays for the title, and the rest are sent out free to John Lewis loyalty cardholders.

Its circulation rose 4 per cent year on year despite the arrival of the paid-for titles Seven's Delicious and BBC Magazines' Olive into the consumer food sector in November. The sales of these titles in the next reporting period will tell whether they have shaken Waitrose Food Illustrated's position.

Another debut was Mazda magazine, which joins a long list of car brands that use the medium to encourage loyalty to their cars. The title, published by North Star, made its debut with a circulation of 139,743. It joins Vauxhall's VM, which posted a figure of 438,989, an increase of 10 per cent, and BMW, handled by Cedar, which saw its circulation increase 2.7 per cent to 265,071.

According to the Cedar managing director, Jules Rastelli, BMW's content is crucial to ensuring it is read by customers. "What makes a magazine great is really entertaining content. Doing that successfully gives the brand the platform to tell them what it has to offer. The less successful ones are catalogues rather than magazines," he says.

Verdict More debuts are expected in the market and Hutchison claims the overall outlook is for continued healthy growth. She quotes a Mintel report that predicts growth of 47 per cent to 2007, and believes the market, currently valued at £313 million, is set to break the £400 million barrier by 2006.

CUSTOMER MAGAZINES

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period Year

on period on year

% change % change

Sky John Brown Citrus 6,390,584 4.00 10.30

Near and Far

(AA members) Forward 3,007,480 n/a n/a

Asda Magazine Publicis Blueprint 2,266,760 13.00 30.20

Boots Health &

Beauty Redwood 1,802,911 -4.00 -5.00

Safeway Magazine Redwood 1,515,210 1.00 -13.00

O Magazine

(Pay monthly) John Brown Citrus 1,422,090 -5.00 -5.00

Saga Magazine Saga Group 1,240,377 0.00 3.00

O Mag

(Pay as you go) John Brown Citrus 1,056,276 6.00 6.00

Q& (AA members) Forward 1,001,236 n/a n/a

Club News CBC Media 549,130 -6.00 3.00

VM (Vauxhall

magazine) Mediamark 438,989 -8.00 10.00

Ikea Rooms Highbury Cabal 402,808 -15.00 n/a

Homebase Ideas Publicis Blueprint 395,307 -21.00 -20.00

Motoring & Leisure CSMA 365,010 n/a 2.00

Unlimited Origin Publishing 349,500 0.00 n/a

The Garden RHS Publishing 326,762 5.00 7.00

Sainsbury's:

The Magazine New Crane 324,589 17.00 -4.50

The Caravan

Club Mag Caravan Club 322,820 n/a 4.00

BMW Magazine Cedar 265,071 5.00 2.70

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July - December 2003.

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