This supplement aims to put the top 100 magazines into context and
draw attention to the highs, lows and future development of a market
which has seen explosive growth over the past few years. The magazine
market is all too frequently referred to dismissively as ’overcrowded’,
but while some sectors appear to be stagnating, there are many new
titles tumbling into the frame, hoping to enliven a market which, on the
whole, is looking a bit tired.
The six-monthly magazine ABCs are seized upon by agencies, clients and,
of course, publishing houses, with excitement, dread and anticipation
because they clearly indicate what’s hot and what’s distinctly cooling
down. NRS continues to be a vital currency in terms of showing people’s
reading habits, and is enhanced by QRS. But for agencies, ABCs are a
crucial tool for negotiation.
That’s after you’ve taken into account how many people have shelled-out
the money for their favourite magazines, rather than being handed them
to read on a plane or as they struggle with their shopping. The number
of customer magazines in the top 100 is snowballing. About half of the
top 20 now fall into this category.
The amount of launch activity across the board shows a level of
confidence among publishers, despite much handwringing about a
recession. New companies have sprung up, from Sally O’Sullivan’s Cabal
Communications, which burst on to the scene with a promise of publishing
12 magazines by the end of its first year, to Mollin Publishing, which
will kick off this spring with the launch of two health and fitness
Looking at specific magazine sectors, some titles have succeeded in
their promise to bring innovation and greater competition to a market,
while others have made little impact. In the women’s monthly market we
witnessed the much-hyped launch of Emap Elan’s Red, the magazine for
thirtysomething women, which followed hot on the heels of Wagadon’s
first women’s title, Frank. While Red has secured a respectable hold in
the marketplace, with a slight hiccup in its second ABC audit, Frank has
unfortunately floundered and looks decidedly on the wane.
Publishers seem to be pouring into the market for health and fitness
titles, encouraged by soaring sales of upmarket titles such as Rodale
Press’s Men’s Health and Zest, while acknowledging people’s growing
obsession with staying young. Admittedly, Conde Nast’s GQ Active has
been folded into GQ, while Emap Metro’s XL disappeared altogether, but
somewhere between the mid and top magazine market sectors, many
opportunities have been seen.
The homes and gardens market is flourishing, with BBC Magazines, IPC,
G+J and Cabal all furiously peddling their new titles which have
performed well in the market. However, with so many titles vying for the
consumer’s attention, this is a sector which will surely see some
casualties - there is, after all, a limit to how many home/gardening
magazines and dedicated TV programmes that you can look at.
While the overall health of the lad-magazine market looks decidedly
jaded compared to the phenomenal growth shown in previous ABC audits, it
would be short-sighted to say that this is the end of an era for men’s
magazines. There are other sectors within the men’s market which are
taking off. As previously mentioned, Men’s Health is booming, while the
rather less edifying Bizarre from John Brown Publishing is thriving and
close to reaching 100,000 in sales.
The men’s magazine market is certain to ape the mature women’s magazine
market, with a few market niches exploding into lots of different
This has already begun - IPC recently announced it would launch Later, a
magazine for men who have grown out of Loaded, Maxim, FHM and, for the
Much of the glory in circulation terms belongs to the younger companies
such as Future Publishing, with Essential PlayStation and PlayStation
Power being the two fastest growing consumer titles.
The IT market is always a lucrative place for publishers who can
successfully ride the wave of new technology.
A potential growth area that prescient publishers and advertisers can
exploit is the market for wrinklies (ie 50-year-olds and over). Saga
Magazine is now the eleventh biggest title with an ABC of almost one
million. While Woman’s Journal and Good Housekeeping have been fiddling
around trying unsuccessfully to broaden their appeal to a younger
audience, there is an affluent, opinionated audience who are getting
their fix from newspapers, rather than magazines. With publishers so
keen to find a replacement for the lad-mag boom, it’s surely time to
cash in on this older market which is crying out for a glossy magazine