ABC FIGURES: Women's weeklies hit by promotional deals

A tidal wave of bulk distribution overshadowed some genuinely

encouraging results in both halves of the women's weeklies sector.



The activity was most apparent in the celebrity battle between Hello!

and OK!, whose topline results showed a too-good-to-be-true set of

year-on-year and period-on- period increases. In fact, when wide-ranging

sampling and promotions with rival Sunday newspapers are discounted,

both titles show a period-on-period decline in actively purchased

copies.



The misleading nature of the result has led to many questioning the

ABC's decision not to apply its rule change on discounted copies

retrospectively to rule out single-penny promotional issues.



In terms of full rate sales, IPC's surging Now magazine in fact leads

the celebrity marketplace. "Now is our star achiever," IPC Connect's

managing director, Linda Lancaster-Gaye, said. "This is absolute

confirmation of its brand strength."



At just under half of Now's circulation, Heat still has some ground to

make up on its rival, but a repeat of last period's triple figure

year-on- year growth confirms that its challenge is hotting up.



Bulks also played a role in disguising IPC's own results in the

traditional weeklies. Woman would have suffered a period-on-period

decline were it not for the publisher's heavy sampling.



However, there is less need to question the dominant performances of H

Bauer's Take a Break and That's Life, which held their strong positions

without the need for any significant bulk sales. Bauer will have been

less encouraged by the performance of Bella, which suffered the sector's

worst slump.



Verdict The true test of Hello! and OK!'s bulks will come in the number

of full-price sales they can pick off from each other next time around.

Likewise, IPC will wait to see if more limited sampling will benefit its

traditional titles in a market still dominated by Bauer.



WOMEN'S WEEKLIES

TITLE PUBLISHER TOTAL ABC Period on Year on

period % year

Take a Break H Bauer 1,166,591 2.5 -1.3

Hello! Hello! Ltd 842,723 67.6 83.7

Woman IPC 660,781 3.8 -4.3

OK! N&S 651,513 11.1 43.1

That's Life H Bauer 569,818 0.0 0.4

Woman's Own IPC 538,424 -2.8 -6.8

Now IPC 518,322 9.0 21.9

Woman's Weekly IPC 503,722 1.5 -3.8

Bella H Bauer 484,986 -9.0 -12.4

Chat IPC 466,422 -0.7 -2.3

Best NatMags 432,252 0.2 -5.2

Peoples Friend DC Thomson 401,817 0.6 -1.4

My Weekly DC Thomson 316,081 -0.7 -5.0

Heat Emap 235,450 36.6 147.5

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations (Jan-June 2001).



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