The boost for Closer coincided with a decline in sales for its sister magazine Heat, which marks the end of a long period of growth for the title.
IPC's Now remains the top-selling celebrity-focused title, despite a slight fall in sales, while at the mature end of the women's market, Chat continued its impressive growth.
Emap attributes Closer's success to its mix of tabloid news exclusives with traditional lifestyle, celebrity and real-life stories. Louise Matthews, the managing director of Emap Entertainment, describes it as "the only glossy tabloid". She says: "Our exclusives are getting better and better. Many celebrities would rather come to us than the newspapers because they get a more balanced hearing."
Matthews says Emap had expected sales of Heat to plateau once they reached the 500,000 mark because it has a strategy in place to invest in editorial and preserve its readership profile for advertisers.
"We expected this for some time. The choice on Heat was do we dilute the proposition and go for a wider audience but deter really prime yield advertising when the audience changed?" she explains.
IPC's Now has 120,000 more actively purchased sales than OK!, which relies heavily on bulks for its circulation. OK!'s actively purchased figure was 459,065 compared with its headline figure of 553,777. Evelyn Webster, the managing director of IPC Connect, says: "The UK's biggest-selling celebrity weekly is a position that Now has held since 2001. The number-one seller when there were four magazines in the market is still the number one with twice as many players in the sector."
Closer's success seems to have impacted on titles aimed at more mature women. IPC's Woman's Own and Woman saw significant year-on-year declines but the market leader, Take a Break, held up better.
Verdict Publishers sense that there is a finite audience of between two million and 2.5 million magazine buyers for celebrity titles to fight for. Closer is flying but the competition is tough and is likely to get tougher when The National Magazine Company's "Project Reveal" title launches.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period- Yr-on-yr
on-period % change
Take a Break H Bauer 1,208,473 -1.50 -1.40
Chat IPC 606,599 0.30 5.40
Now IPC 580,007 -2.00 -1.80
That's Life H Bauer 573,966 -3.90 -3.10
OK! Northern & Shell 553,777 -3.00 13.20
Heat Emap 540,556 -4.60 -4.40
Woman IPC 536,364 -5.10 -6.10
Closer Emap 480,187 24.70 43.50
Woman's Weekly IPC 451,690 -0.30 -3.00
Woman's Own IPC 446,194 -6.80 -7.90
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2004.