ABC: Customer Magazines

This year, hardly a month has gone by without news of a customer magazine launch, painting a picture of a vibrant sector. The AA announced plans to re-enter the market with RewAArd, which will replace its former titles Q& and Near & Far. The new magazine, launching in October, will have a circulation of four million, second only to BSkyB's Sky the magazine.

Prudential is planning Prudential Magazine and the online travel brand Lastminute has combined online with offline communications to launch a customer title.

Orange replaced its O titles, withdrawn last year, with three new magazines.

Glow, with a print run of 500,000, is a quarterly aimed at 20- to 44-year-old pay-as-you-go and pay-monthly customers.

The Little Orange Mag will target 120,000 16- to 20-year-old pay-as-you-go customers. Both titles are expected to post ABCs next year. A mini-magazine called Inside, which will go out with bills, focuses on sport, film and music, and will be sent to Orange's 1.8 million customers.

There is also news of pitches for big brands such as Apple and the Post Office, suggesting that the level of activity seen in the first half of the year will continue.

The health of the sector was once again underlined by the enduring presence of customer magazines at the top of the circulation rankings in the latest ABC figures.

There was no change in the first three places in the top 100. BSkyB's UK customer title, Sky the magazine, leads with an almost flat circulation of 6,783,581, an increase of 1.1 per cent period on period. Its circulation reflects the steady growth of its customer base, which is being boosted by increased investment in direct marketing and advertising.

Spots two and three were occupied by retail titles from Asda and Boots.

Asda the magazine, published by Publicis Blueprint, posted a circulation of 2,631,293, up 1.8 per cent over the past six months, despite facing competition from a rejuvenated Sainsbury's. Redwood's Boots Health & Beauty was down 0.1 per cent to 1,765,387.

Further down the table, retail's heavy presence continued, showing how much companies value their contribution to increasing loyalty and shifting products off shelves.

Debenhams Desire, which Publicis Blueprint launched at the end of last year, is testing its circulation before settling on a print run. This resulted in a drop of 23.4 per cent on the last period to 745,126. The launch of the title does provide encouraging signs that there is potential for customer titles among non-food retailers.

The Somerfield Magazine was up 1.7 per cent to 1,134,364, while New Crane's Sainsbury's: The Magazine, which is 98.9 per cent actively purchased, rose 2 per cent over the past six months to 346,898. This figure could be boosted by the chain's purchase of nine Safeway and Morrisons stores, adding 100,000 customers.

Waitrose Food Illustrated was up 14.6 per cent year on year, reflecting its purchase of 19 stores from Morrisons.

Healthy, Holland & Barrett's in-store, paid-for magazine, came in just ahead of Waitrose Food Illustrated with a circulation of 300,331, up 7.2 per cent on the last period. However, Homebase Ideas dropped 10.3 per cent after the title wasn't allowed to account for 150,000 promotional copies that were sent out with BBC Good Homes and Ideal Home.

Some of the automotive titles fared well. The Vauxhall Magazine was up 0.8 per cent in the past six months to 394,846, while BMW Magazine rose 6.4 per cent to 283,118.

In the slimming sector, Weightwatchers Magazine was up 2.6 per cent to 249,261, while Slimming World Magazine was up 1 per cent to 264,081.

Although ABCs are only relevant for customer titles that carry ads, the figures show companies continue to plough investment into the medium.

"Companies are continuing to shift from mainstream advertising to more one-to-one, targeted ways of communicating," Andrew Hirsch, the chief executive of John Brown Citrus Publishing, comments. "The magazines in which we sell advertising are performing well against expected figures at a time when mainstream advertising is struggling."

The figures are complemented by research from the Association of Publishing Agencies that shows the medium is gaining credibility. This has long been a moot point between publishers of newsstand and customer titles.

Julia Hutchison, the director of the APA, says: "Titles from Waitrose and Boots show that consumers engage with customer magazines. There's also more acceptance of free media."

The research shows that 25 per cent of consumers keep titles for more than a month. There is an 8 per cent uplift in sales among customers who receive such titles and 44 per cent of consumers take some form of positive action after reading a customer title.

Verdict: The ABCs provide strong proof of a sector in rude health. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this medium will grow and grow for some time yet.

CUSTOMER MAGAZINES TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on- period year % change % change Sky the magazine John Brown Citrus Publishing 6,783,581 1.1 2.8 Asda the magazine Publicis Blueprint 2,631,293 1.8 7.3 Boots Health & Beauty Redwood 1,765,387 -0.1 -3.8 U Unison 1,465,833 n/a n/a Saga Magazine Saga 1,245,006 -0.2 0.1 The Somerfield Magazine Rare 1,134,364 1.7 0.3 Debenhams Desire Publicis Blueprint 745,126 -23.4 n/a Emma's Diary Pregnancy Guide Lifecycle Marketing 416,140 3.6 n/a Homebase Ideas Publicis Blueprint 399,348 -10.3 -10.8 The Vauxhall Magazine Brooklands Group 394,846 0.8 -6.6 The Garden RHS Publications 348,567 0.8 5.0 Sky the magazine John Brown Citrus Ireland Publishing 348,136 6.6 10.9 Sainsbury's: The Magazine New Crane 346,898 2.0 23.5 Unlimited BBC Origin Publishing 338,000 1.4 2.3 Healthy River 300,331 7.2 34.0 Waitrose Food Illustrated John Brown Citrus Publishing 299,474 -0.2 14.6 BMW Magazine Cedar 283,118 6.4 9.7 Slimming World Magazine Miles Bramwell Executive Services 264,081 1.0 -1.2 Weightwatchers Magazine Castlebar Publishing 249,261 2.6 n/a Heritage Today John Brown Citrus Publishing 236,794 -1.7 5.0