James Papworth: marketing director of PPA
James Papworth: marketing director of PPA
A view from James Papworth

Ahead of magazine circulation reports on 'ABC Day', PPA's Papworth takes stock

It is only "ABC Day" to those in the media business. For readers it's just another great day to interact with their favourite brands, says James Papworth, marketing director of PPA.

Today is what is referred to colloquially as ABC Day. To expand a little further, it's one of the two days a year when ABC releases circulation data for the selection of titles that opt to be audited for a given six-month period.

It's different from the ABC Day we had this time last year in that today’s report incorporates digital edition circulation data. In that respect, it's more closely related to the ABC Day of February this year, though different in that fewer magazine titles opt into the half-year audit period, and this report also contains audited circulation figures for digital publications – as distinct from digital editions.

Either way, it's all very different to the traditional ABC Day of just a few years ago, when magazines were more likely to exist only as printed products, rather than the multi-platform magazine media brands they are today.

All sound a bit complicated? It can be. And the data release will no doubt be the catalyst for plenty of heated industry discussion. Taking a step outside of all that, however, ABC Day is a logical opportunity to reiterate the fundamentals of why consumers savour the pages of more than a billion magazines a year.

The UK certainly has an appetite for them. At our last count, and this is just in terms of print, among the G8, the MINT and the BRIC nations, the UK ranks second in terms of printed-copy-consumption per capita. And in case you are curious, that’s second behind France. (Source: ABC/FIPP/PPA)

And the multi-platform trends alluded to earlier can be picked out among readership figures: 58 magazine brands have consistently reported a public readership since the year 2000. Their collective reach now, across print and websites, is 30 million adults – that's over a million more than in 2010. The overall reach, for the 140 or so magazine brands in NRS, is now more than 37 million adults.

Sitting alongside this enduring brand attraction, as measured by the hard metrics, are numerous research studies of softer metrics reinforcing the position and role of magazine brands within readers' lives. Magazine brands are all about connection within like-minded communities.

Some of those communities are bigger than others – cars probably outstrip campanology – but essentially, if you are interested in a topic or activity, there is a magazine brand talking expertly about it, on one channel or another, or indeed several.

Audiences tuning into that are rewarded with a multitude of emotional and practical benefits, which go on to influence their attitudes and behaviours.

The recent IPA TouchPoints5 reminded us that consumers’ main reasons for choosing to spend time with a magazine brand are: entertainment; relaxation/escapism; and, one for word-of-mouth and social marketers, to give them something to talk about, i.e. the creation and curation of great content.

In the modern rush, magazines also offer a catalyst for some quality "me time", with 41% of women agreeing that they make time to read their favourite magazine. Well over half, 56%, agree that magazines give them "ideas and inspiration" – this rises to 58% among women aged 15 to 34.


In more commercial terms, 41% of women agree that "magazines provide them with ideas of what to buy", rising to 45% of women aged 15 to 34.

The extent to which audiences buy brands and products they see advertised within printed magazines was a key insight from PPA Magonomics, conducted in association with Mindshare.

Econometric analysis of 77 of their campaigns proved that magazine investment yielded the highest ROI of all media channels, and that on a cost/benefit curve, magazine investment could be more than doubled before its ROI dropped to that of its nearest competitor.

PPA's Magnify research also put up metrics specifically for magazine brands in the printed format. Editorial pages have, on average, 54% audience recall. Given that readers actively choose to engage with content on a theme in which they are interested, it's perhaps not surprising that editorial recall is reassuringly high, and in tune with the findings expressed in TouchPoints.

Magnify went on to identify though that, at 54%, advertising pages have exactly the same recall level as editorial. The "purpose" of reading a magazine – relaxation, entertainment and information gathering – involves all the pages between the front and the back covers.

Advertised brands are positioned to readers as part of the community. They receive the same attention as any other page and are imbued with an implied sense of relevance and suitability, i.e. it’s an inherently native environment for advertisers.

So, for us inside the business, today is an ABC Day of hard metrics – data points charting a wider shift from magazines to magazine media brands. For our consumers though – reading, enjoying, absorbing, tweeting, watching, scrolling and swiping as they interact with their magazine brands of choice – it's a magazine day, just like any other.