The women's weekly sector seems in strong health, with a 4.3 per cent rise in total sales over the past year.
IPC's Chat has taken over from H Bauer's That's Life as the number two women's weekly with a 5 per cent rise over the period.
Although it still only has half the circulation of the mighty Take a Break, Chat has managed to attain steady growth over the whole year - up 9.4 per cent, twice the growth in the sector.
Sandy Gale, the publishing director at IPC Connect, credits this rise directly to "editorial excellence". Chat stands out on the newsstands thanks to its zany coverlines (this week's issue features the classic "Dirty old Dad - cropped tops in the wardrobe and a teenager in his bed").
The major battle was among the celebrity titles. OK! fought back with a 16.7 per cent rise. However, a good proportion of this rise can be accounted for by 27,000 extra export bulks.
Despite the huge success of Heat in the celebrity sector, it is still OK! and IPC's Now slugging it out for pole position. Now sustained its lead over the July to December period.
Heat registered a slight increase and its sister Emap title Closer stormed ahead by 50,494 sales. Northern & Shell's New!, however, fell and Hello! continued its circulation slide with a massive 35.9 per cent fall. Hello! lost nearly 200,000 readers over the year, although it did manage to recover slightly in the second half of the year.
Louise Matthews, the managing director at Emap Entertainment, believes that there is not much growth left in the celebrity magazine sector. She accuses Northern & Shell of "muddying the waters in the sector by launching poor imitations and then gaining ground using pricing", arguing: "There is nothing innovative about New!"
She believes Closer did well by taking readers from more traditional titles such as Best, Woman and Woman's Own. Gale, however, points out that Woman and Woman's Own have both taken hits to their circulation as bulks have been cut out of their figures.
Verdict Celebrity magazine mania has started to slow down, although it seems likely that the newer titles to launch in the sector will continue to take readers away from the traditional women's weeklies.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period Year
on period on year
% change % change
Take a Break H Bauer 1,227,305 0.20 1.90
Chat IPC 604,582 5.00 9.40
That's Life H Bauer 597,420 0.90 0.00
Now IPC 592,076 0.30 -6.10
OK! Northern & Shell 570,927 16.70 -9.80
Heat Emap 566,731 0.20 2.20
Woman IPC 565,393 -1.10 -11.40
Woman's Own IPC 478,687 -1.20 -7.80
Woman's Weekly IPC 453,153 -2.70 -6.80
Bella H Bauer 429,226 7.80 0.30
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July - December 2003.