ABC: Launch risks pay off

Good news for the magazine industry - a clutch of new titles are doing well and growing the market.

The focus of the January-to-June ABCs has been on the various titles launched into the market. Would the enormous marketing budgets backing the new titles translate into big sales? And would the revamp of established magazines stave off the attack from the newcomers?

In most cases, it looks like the launch risk and expense have paid dividends.

The majority of new titles have met or exceeded their targets and instead of stealing share from elsewhere, the new titles have grown the market.

The industry as a whole was up in terms of volume for the sixth consecutive year. Total sales rose 5.5 per cent year on year and the number of copies actively purchased was up 6.4 per cent.

The Periodical Publishers' Assoc-iation's director of marketing, Phil Cutts, says: "Consumer expenditure on magazines has grown in real terms every year for the past five years - more than £2 billion per annum for the first time, according to the Advertising Association. Consumers' appetite for magazines continues."

IPC Media's Nuts and Emap's Zoo continued to hog the limelight in the men's lifestyle market. This time, Nuts has gained on its rival, edging over the 300,000 mark.

In the women's market, Emap's weekly glossy, Grazia, and Conde Nast's Easy Living made an impact. Northern & Shell's launch of Happy failed to make such an impression. It hasn't posted an ABC and falling sales mean it is already dropping issues.

Aggressive pricing strategies affected the weeklies and with new, low-price entrants expected later this year, publishers are concerned that a price war could undervalue their products.

Customer magazines remain buoyant. The AA and Prudential have launches planned and pitches for Apple and the Post Office suggest companies are still willing to invest. Existing titles were stable, with BSkyB's Sky: the magazine and Asda Magazine marginally up .

IPC Media, the UK's number-one publisher by volume, has had a fruitful six months. Launches and organic growth have helped it grow by 9 per cent and its new titles have walked effortlessly into their categories.

Pick Me Up made its debut with a figure of more than half-a-million and TV Easy's 340,018 sales make it the number five in its market. Both titles have done well to grow sectors largely untouched for several years.

Loaded was IPC's other successful project. Its April relaunch with the 90 pence price cut contributed to a 7 per cent circulation boost.

Sylvia Auton, IPC's chief executive, says: "IPC has been revitalised in the past two years and now has a world-class launch capability. We've launched three mass-market weeklies in 18 months."

Some of IPC's established titles suffered from the focus on new projects, and the weeklies Now and Chat were both down. Essentials and Family Circle suffered double-digit drops and Marie Claire also dipped slightly.

Three of Emap's seven divisions grew strongly. The lifestyle group benefited from Zoo's continuing success and the launch of Grazia. The new weekly has exceeded expectations to record a solid debut ABC of 155,157.

Paul Keenan, Emap Consumer Media's chief executive, says: "We are satisfied with Grazia. We've already achieved the upscale audience we set out to. It's the start of a revolution."

The weeklies did stormingly well in an increasingly saturated market and both Heat and Closer were up. Arena and Top Sante also performed well but New Woman continued to struggle and was down 7 per cent on the year.

All of Emap Automotive's titles took severe year-on-year knocks.

BBC Magazines had a quiet January to June. There have been no further sales of titles unrelated to BBC programming (as necessitated by the upcoming Charter Review) and it has also been quiet on the launch front. Only a couple of new titles have emanated from its Bristol-based Origin operation this year.

A change in frequency of some of its magazines contributed to an overall 0.9 per cent year-on-year decline but Peter Phippen, the managing director of BBC Magazines, is unfazed. "In our core markets we have done well. We will launch new magazines and are well-placed for growth," he says.

The publisher's main stable of titles enjoyed good results and BBC Top Gear, Good Homes and Olive were all up. The BBC's Origin magazines had muted success but its titles were up 8.3 per cent overall, year on year.

The National Magazine Company's joint ventures began to bear fruit in this period. In its ACP-Natmag division, Reveal leapt 13.9 per cent and NatMag Rodale's Men's Health was also up.

In its main business, the success story was Good Housekeeping. It was up by double digits, overtaking its sister magazine Cosmopolitan. However, other flagship titles including Esquire, Cosmopolitan and She all suffered.

The publisher hopes that the relaunch of the latter title in October will help stem its terminal decline.

Duncan Edwards, NatMags' chief executive, says: "Results on most of our major businesses have been outstanding and Reveal is growing fast and in line with our plans."

Conde Nast had strong results and only two of its nine titles declined.

For once, Glamour let the side down with a slight dip in circulation.

The publisher's attentions were clearly on its new entrant to the women's lifestyle market, Easy Living.

Nicholas Coleridge, the managing director of Conde Nast, is pleased with its debut ABC, saying: "With Easy Living, we set ourselves a steep target of 150,000 and have beaten it by 21,000 copies. It's a strong start."

Other titles including Vogue and Tatler were up. GQ remained flat.

Six of Hachette Filipacchi UK's seven magazines saw increases. Its flagship titles, Elle and Red, were both up, despite more competition in their markets. B was up double digits year on year. The publisher is now turning its attention to its first launch in the UK, Psychologies.

Kevin Hand, Hachette's chairman, says: "We continue to build our portfolio with further acquisitions and launches."

Another deluge of launches looks likely for the next six months, continuing the climate of growth and innovation of the past 18 months. With Emap's weekly glossy format proving successful, expect competitors in this market.

And with more launches into the thirtysomething market, there could well be some casualties.

- 'We will continue to launch ground-breaking magazines such as Grazia and Closer and reinvent established ones, as we have with Heat and Empire.' - Paul Keenan, chief executive, Emap Consumer Media

- 'We have acknowledged the challenges in the thirtysomething market by launching an entirely new version of She in October.' - Duncan Edwards, chief executive, NatMags

- 'Actively purchased copy sales across our portfolio have grown by 4.8 per cent year on year and we now sell one title every two seconds.' - Kevin Hand, chairman, Hachette Filipacchi UK.

- 'The investments and launch activity that we have been making across our entire portfolio will ensure that we continue to experience growth.' - Peter Phippen, managing director, BBC Magazines

- 'At a time of enormous launch activity, virtually all our titles are once again up in circulation. It's a strong time for quality publishing.' - Nicholas Coleridge, managing director, Conde Nast

'We are 100 per cent committed to continuing to lead the market through publishing both innovative and inspiring magazines.' - Sylvia Auton, chief executive, IPC Media

PUBLISHERS PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on-period Year-on-year % change % change IPC Media 8,284,153 9.6 9.1 Emap 5,406,881 4.9 5.9 BBC Magazines 3,885,111 -0.3 -0.9 H Bauer 3,800,307 -1.8 -0.5 NatMags 3,493,465 2.1 7.4 Conde Nast 1,586,630 11.4 12.4 Hachette Filipacchi 1,203,790 1.0 4.3 Northern & Shell 1,088,275 -4.2 13.6 Future 977,543 -7.6 -1.0 Dennis Publishing 749,199 -4.6 11.7 Haymarket 606,522 -2.1 -1.8 Highbury 327,072 -5.9 -16.7 Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2005.