Distinguishing trends seemed to include a slowdown in the growth of the celebrity market, solidity, but little growth in the "real life" sector and continued sales declines for "classic" women's weekly titles.
In the celebrity market, the top two titles, Emap's Closer and Heat, suffered sales falls as competition increased on the newsstand - such as from the launch of IPC Media's Look. Although listed in the women's lifestyle sector, its weekly frequency and significant celebrity content provides yet another newsstand alternative.
Sophie Wybrew-Bond, the managing director of Emap Entertainment, says: "We're very happy to be number one and number two. The brands continue to stand out and have a distinctive offer at the newsstand."
Emap is now under greater pressure from celebrity focused rivals, such as Hello!, which increased its sales. IPC's Now, the former market leader, is going through a period of change under the editor, Helen Johnston, who was appointed in January.
Emap says it remains committed to First, despite its sales just scraping above the 100,000 mark. The publisher is investing in a "radical reinvention" of the title under its editor, Jane Ennis, but some consider this a high-risk strategy given its failure to build a mass audience. Emap will be hoping that a positioning as a glossy title for women in their thirties and forties will catch on, otherwise it could suffer the same fate as Bauer's In the Know, which was closed after disappointing sales.
Colin Morrison, the chief executive of ACP-NatMag, which launched into the celebrity market three years ago with Reveal, says: "Inevitably, a bit of froth has come off the biggest celebrity magazines. If you count Look in this market, it has had to expand to take this launch in."
In the real-life sector, Bauer's Take a Break maintains its dominance with readers generally remaining loyal to titles. However, IPC's Pick Me Up had a good six months and leapfrogged Bauer's That's Life. The most recent launches, News Magazines' Love It! and ACP-NatMag's Real People, failed to increase sales and were both down slightly as readers stuck with the market leader.
Classic titles continued to find the going tough with IPC's Woman and Woman's Weekly continuing to lose sales. ACP-NatMag's Best continued to build its lead over Bauer's Bella. Best's circulation fell, but Bella's was down by 25 per cent despite, or perhaps because of, editorial changes.
Verdict Competition in the celebrity market has reached fever pitch, and publishers will attempt to build the strength of their brands to improve standout at newsstands. The increased power of the supermarkets bodes well, though, for the weeklies in general at the expense of niche monthly titles.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period- Year-
% change % change
Take a Break H Bauer 1,018,423 -0.8 -5.9
Closer Emap 570,239 -7.1 -3.4
Heat Emap 558,365 -6.7 -3.7
OK! Northern & Shell 557,014 -10.7 1.7
Chat IPC 511,510 -4.8 -7.7
Now IPC 494,229 -8.5 -8.5
Pick Me Up IPC 447,100 5.3 0.4
That's Life H Bauer 443,604 -4.6 -9.5
New! Northern & Shell 442,003 -3.3 -3.7
Hello! Hello! 419,814 1.7 4.0