Magazine ABCs July-Dec 2006: Teen magazines

The Italian publisher Panini might be the king of the football sticker album, but it could face an uphill struggle in making a go of its investments in the UK teenage magazine sector.

Last year, it bought Mizz magazine from IPC Media and Bliss from Emap. While Mizz's circulation was fairly flat, sales of Bliss, still under Emap management during the second half of the year, fell through the floor.

Panini says it is committed to investing in the title, and it will need to be if it is to turn around a magazine that Emap struggled with. However, its early success with Mizz, stabilising the title and investing in its online presence, suggests that the publisher is not fighting a losing battle.

Bliss' troubles meant Hachette Filipacchi's Sugar returned to the top of a teenage lifestyle market that was a staggering 24 per cent down across 2006. As teenage girls increasingly turn to the internet during their leisure time, publishers are investing in their online product. Julie Harris, the general manager at Hachette, says: "We will continue to invest in growing the Sugar brand this year by increasing our digital activities and integrating the sales effort across all platforms."

Harris says that Hachette has changed its strategy with Sugar and, in addition to the online investment, which has seen a new website and a readers' VIP club, is investing more in the editorial product than on gifts to accompany the title. Under the editor, Annabel Brog, the title has relaunched and resized and now has a 41 per cent market share of the teenage lifestyle sector.

"There's no doubt that the market is declining, but we have a strong brand we can take forward. The strength of the Sugar brand is such that we can branch out and are investing heavily in online and events. But the magazine remains the mothership product," Harris says.

The National Magazine Company's title CosmoGIRL! lost sales, but the publisher is hoping the launch of an online version of the magazine will boost the brand.

In the teenage entertainment sector, BBC Magazines' Top of the Pops title showed that it's still possible to increase sales among a teenage audience despite the death of the TV brand that spawned the magazine. Sales of teenage entertainment magazines as a whole were down by 6.8 per cent, but Top of the Pops reversed the trend. Duncan Gray, the associate publisher, teen magazines at BBC Worldwide, says: "Looking forward, there are strong indications on sales. We've now got the right newsstand package and, in terms of the editorial package, teenagers still love posters."

Gray said that the publisher is investing in Top of the Pops' online presence, with a fortnightly newsletter containing up-to-date information and interviews with cover stars.

The BBC's other title in the sector, It's Hot!, fared less well, but Gray predicted that it would bounce back in 2007: "We are convinced the package is right and that we have the right gifts to stabilise sales if not grow them."

Verdict Panini has committed to investing in Bliss, and will attempt to give Sugar a run for its money going forward. All publishers in this sector are looking at their online offering, but the major players - Hachette and BBC Magazines - are also investing in their print editorial product in the belief that strong titles can still sell despite tough market conditions.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
Sugar Hachette Filipacchi 200,541 0.2 -19.8
Bliss Panini 151,729 -28.9 -45.3
CosmoGIRL! NatMags 131,956 -7.1 -23.8
Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 105,025 -10.1 8.7
Shout DC Thomson 80,910 -2.5 8.7
Mizz Panini 59,934 -0.3 -0.8
It's Hot! BBC Magazines 57,013 -13.8 -11.4
TV Hits Essential Publishing 47,321 -13.5 -25.6
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2006.

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