ABC FIGURES: Publishers find solace in flagship magazines

A tough set of ABCs has focused attention back on publishers' flagship brands and away from the specialist sectors and quick marketing fixes that have occupied much of the industry's investment over recent years.

A tough set of ABCs has focused attention back on publishers' flagship brands and away from the specialist sectors and quick marketing fixes that have occupied much of the industry's investment over recent years.

The computing sector, which had proved such a boon for publishers in recent ABC releases, was held back by serious losses among games titles in particular. The decline served to pin back the topline results of specialists in the sector such as Future Publishing, which saw a meagre 4 per cent year-on-year increase in circulation despite a profusion of new launches.

With the sudden cooling of new technology, the continued decline of the homes and gardens sector and the lack of positive news from special interest fields such as boating, pets and classic cars, mass-market publishers are once again left to concentrate on the management of their flagship brands. However, an over-dependence on promotions has left several of these titles in an uncertain state.

IPC suffered badly in several areas. In the women's lifestyle sector, where heavy covermounting seems to have played havoc with brand loyalty, each of its established titles suffered a serious year-on-year drop, although there was a respectable debut for the fashion title Nova.

Things were a little better among the men's titles, where a bulked-up Loaded succeeded in posting its first period-on-period increase for four periods - but Later continued its catastrophic circulation decline.

IPC Media's chief executive, Sly Bailey, has vowed to reinforce core brands through above-the-line marketing, but will need competitive products to back up the policy.

BBC Worldwide also saw several titles take a pounding, with Match of the Day, Live & Kicking and Top of the Pops all underperforming badly.

Emap saw Red suffer along with most of the mature women's market but could point to strong performances from flagship titles such as Elle and FHM, which gave a timely reminder of their dominance in the respective fashion and men's sectors.

Conde Nast again produced a steady set of results, with Traveller's continued success offsetting the losses suffered by Tatler.

The National Magazine Company, meanwhile, could claim to have outperformed the tricky women's lifestyle market. A circulation rise for Good Housekeeping, a storming performance from Company and a steady one from Cosmopolitan all served to offset the decline of Esquire and the absorption of the circulation-shedding former Gruner & Jahr titles Best, Prima and Focus.

'There are a lot of products out there but few genuine brands,' NatMags deputy managing director, Duncan Edwards, said. 'If you produce consistency over time, then you will be successful.'



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