Magazine ABCs: raw numbers don't tell you why this medium is so powerful

Mass scale has rarely been a key reason for why magazines are an effective advertising platform, says Carat's publishing account director.

Magazine ABCs: raw numbers don't tell you why this medium is so powerful

This period’s ABC release has proved most successful for the free market and publishers with specialist content. In a continued trend, the free market remains buoyant, posting a period-on-period increase of 0.5 per cent.

Little wonder then that other publishing groups are also keen to access this successful space. This period has seen the launch of TV Mag, Dennis plans to launch a men’s title in the latter part of the year, and the iconic NME will be moving to this model in September after 63 years as a paid-for title.

Outside of the free titles, the only sector to enjoy increases in its entirety was the news and business sector. In an election year and with such specialised editorial, this is an expected triumph for quality writing and content.

In other sectors the overall trend was downwards, with individual successes for certain specialised titles. For fashion, it was Elle and Instyle; for wellbeing it was Women’s Health and Forever Sports.

Other markets suffered more significantly with the celebrity weeklies and home interest sectors particularly feeling the pinch from their digital competition, as the Mail Online churns out vast volumes of celebrity content apace and Pinterest and Instagram offer a free inspirational alternative to magazines.

While the magazine ABC numbers represent one element of the brand, we shouldn’t lose sight of their absolute reach and why we use the channel in the first instance. It is right to say that ABC figures continue to reflect the health of magazines’ printed issues, and in some instances digital editions, yet the parent print brands now anchor a multitude of brand extensions.

ABC figures are invaluable for media buyers and sellers in setting prices but when assessing brand health we should not dwell on these numbers alone.

Firstly, we must be mindful that the ABC numbers alone are not reflective of the brands true breadth of scale. Despite the ABC’s ability to audit other brand extensions, rarely do we see every touchpoint reported upon in a holistic way.

This will only become harder as we undergo a further diversification of touchpoints through the likes of Facebook Instants and Google News.

Most importantly, we must remember the real reasons that make magazines an effective advertising platform. Mass scale has rarely been the key reason for their use. Their true power continues to lie in the core benefits of engagement, influence and advocacy.

Mark Jones is the associate director of the publishing team at Carat

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