The top magazine publishers managed to increase their magazine sales during the second half of 2003 but are still grappling with the issue of achieving further growth during 2004.
All claim to be considering launches this year but are also concerned with growing sales of their existing portfolios. With the exception of Hachette Filipacchi, which was hit by the downturn in sales of teen magazines, the major publishers posted period-on-period increases.
However, sales growth at some companies, notably Future, was partly down to ABC certificates being issued for titles that previously did not have an official circulations. These included no fewer than 30 of Future's titles and several Emap magazines.
There was a 1.6 per cent year-on-year increase in the total number of actively purchased consumer magazines. Sectors that performed especially well were women's weeklies and TV listings.
The customer magazine sector remained in a buoyant state, with four of the top five UK magazines being customer titles. Titles including Sky magazine, Asda magazine and Orange's O Magazine increased their circulation.
IPC Media, the UK's biggest publisher of magazines by volume, bounced back from a sales fall in the first half of 2003 but is still selling fewer magazines than it did a year ago. Highlights for IPC were sales increases for InStyle, Now, What's on TV, Chat and Uncut. However, Marie Claire, TV & Satellite Week, Mizz and TV Times all experienced sales declines.
Sylvia Auton, the chief executive at IPC Media, says that the company is committed to a launch programme that has already seen the advent of the men's weekly Nuts. "We are determined that IPC will not only publish the market leaders of today but will launch the market leaders of tomorrow," she says.
Auton adds that Time Inc's ownership of the company (it bought IPC for £1.15 billion in 2001) has transformed its ambitions: "Our world has changed.
Looking back, launching magazines was not where our previous two owners, Reed Elsevier and Cinven, were at. Time Inc understands and values magazines."
IPC is concerned, Auton says, about a slowdown in the growth of retail magazine sales by value. She argues that the discounting of cover prices and increased numbers of magazines competing for retail space were exacerbating this.
Emap, IPC's main rival, also saw overall growth in its circulation figures.
The publisher, which launched the men's title Zoo Weekly last month, saw increases in sales in its weekly titles Heat and Closer, its men's title Arena and the football title Match. Its women's title Yours increased its circulation but the monthly glossy New Woman was down year on year, leaving it as the number-ten player in the women's lifestyle market after Emap disposed of its share in Elle and Red to Hachette Filipacchi.
Emap was also exposed to the downturn in the teen sector with Smash Hits suffering a 21.2 per cent fall in sales. Top Sante, Here's Health and The Face also suffered significant falls in circulation. Paul Keenan, the chief executive of Emap Consumer Media, says: "We did well. We're not in the bulk business at all, and we grew our share of actively purchased copies from 15.8 per cent to 16.8 per cent."
Keenan says Emap will move forward through a mix of investing in its biggest brands and launching a consumer magazine a year. "The consumer market is relatively good. Volume might be flat but we can still get price increases though this requires editorial genius and innovation. We're in pretty good shape but not complacent. We've got to keep fighting."
BBC Magazines is part-way through an aggressive programme of launching, mainly into its strongholds of food and gardening. The last period was no exception with the food magazine Olive, the teen title Dare and Parenting its main launches. In addition, its BBC Easy Gardening title's first ABC figure put it second in the gardening market.
Its women's title Eve posted a large sales increase but the picture was more mixed in the teen market with Top of the Pops losing readers while It's Hot and Girl Talk increased circulation.
Peter Phippen, the managing director of BBC Magazines, sees room for growth but says: "Feedback is that pre-Christmas, things were tough. If trading in the high street suffers it's bad news. Looking at the year ahead, things will pick up a bit in the ad and retail markets."
The National Magazine Company headlines will focus on Cosmopolitan's unspectacular performance but it generally performed well with Best, CosmoGirl, Good Housekeeping and She all recording healthy circulation increases.
It too is looking at launching magazines. Duncan Edwards, its managing director, says: "On balance it's been a good six months. We've had sales that have been more up than down and ended up with a set of ABCs we're pleased with. We have tried to keep titles as number one or number two in markets and all our big titles have done well."
Conde Nast saw all its titles increase circulation. Glamour extended its leadership of the women's lifestyle sector and Vogue recorded its highest circulation in its 82-year history. Nicholas Coleridge, the Conde Nast managing director, says the publisher is achieving its target of growth across all titles. "The blue-chip glossies and the I'm a Celebrity-style magazines have done well but it looks like everything in between has been squeezed," he says.
Hachette Filipacchi suffered from large drops in sales of its teen titles Sugar and TV Hits but there was some cheer with sales increases for its soap title All About Soap and the women's monthly Red.
Kevin Hand, the chairman at Hachette, says: "This set of figures reflects a period of major consolidation mixed with innovation as we move into our second year. In what continues to be a famously competitive market, we are building from a solid base of growing market share."
The major publishers, with some exceptions, experienced a satisfactory but not explosive six months. Expect some fireworks this year as they gear up for some major launches.
PUBLISHER Total ABC Period on period Year on year
% change % change
IPC Media 9,808,789 11.00 -4.30
Emap (group total) 6,533,233 30.60 5.70
H Bauer 4,278,535 11.60 5.60
BBC Magazines 4,176,482 4.40 5.00
NatMags 3,115,565 4.60 2.80
Future Publishing 1,601,756 96.60 -2.50
Hachette Filipacchi 1,358,448 -5.80 -7.0
Dennis Publishing 1,270,980 10.60 -0.70
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July - December 2003.
'We believe that launches are the lifeblood of our industry and we are committed to launching magazines to drive retail value growth' - Sylvia Auton, IPC Media
- 'The upmarket sector has held up strongly and we've slightly increased our share. The market is moving in our direction and our magazines have performed well' - Nicholas Coleridge, Conde Nast
- 'The year ahead will be an exciting one with a strengthened executive team and firm plans to expand through launches and the growth of our existing portfolio' - Kevin Hand, Hachette Filipacchi
- 'If you've got titles that are strong in markets, the climate is OK but if you're the third or fourth book in a market, it's very difficult' - Duncan Edwards, The National Magazine Company
- 'We want to launch a magazine a year. We're committed to this. If you are not launching you're going backwards' - Paul Keenan, Emap Consumer Media
- 'We've been launching titles in our existing markets and looking at launching titles that build bridges between markets. This will continue' - Peter Phippen, BBC Magazines.