CAMPAIGN REPORT ON TOP MAGAZINES: Sector profiles - Motoring magazines roared ahead in terms of growth, PlayStation titles added dynamism to the computer sector and, while the women’s glossies battled it out, the BBC held its own in the flagging h



On the face of it something rather special has happened to the motoring

press. According to the ABC, and judged by the admittedly rough measure

of total circulation, the motoring market last year was the fastest

growing of all magazine sectors. It is, if these same figures are to be

believed, the second-largest sector of all, bigger even than traditional

heavyweights like TV listings, home interest and women’s monthly


Unfortunately, the ABC figures don’t always tell the whole story. They

disguise the fact, for instance, that six of the sector’s top ten titles

are customer magazines, which have served principally to bulk out the

total sales picture. The relaunch of the AA Magazine on its own added a

distribution of more than four million copies, itself more than the

entire motoring sector sold and distributed a year ago. A new customer

offering, Renault Magazine, helped pad out the sector’s overall return

still further. Down in the trenches of the paid-for titles, in fact, the

battles have been as bloody as ever.

In the weeklies, AutoExpress built on last year’s lead over Autocar, and

although its sales growth has slowed, it is now close to the magical

100,000 mark. The biggest news in the monthlies was the sales slump of

the lads’ bible, Maxpower. It was joined by fellow laddish title Revs in

recording a sharp sales downturn. But it wasn’t all bad news for the

irreverent speed freaks out there. The no-nonsense Fast Car recorded a

13 per cent sales improvement, while among the new entrants, Haymarket’s

F1 Racing claims a worldwide circulation of almost 400,000 and UK sales

of 100,000 before its first ABC.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


AA Magazine                Redwood                4,084,522          1.3

Ford Magazine              BLA                      667,116        -17.8

Vauxhall Magazine          Premier                  627,197        -11.6

Auto Trader                Hurst                    358,050         -7.3

Renault Magazine           Brooklands               350,273            -

Motoring & Leisure         CSMA                     328,662          2.2

Caravan Club               The Caravan Club         290,613          0.5

Top Gear                   BBC                      181,245          4.6

Maxpower                   Emap Active              180,141         -6.3

BMW Magazine               River Publishing         178,472         20.1


Just as Sony has handed Nintendo a savage beating in the games console

market, so have the respective gaming titles performed. Future’s two

PlayStation titles dominated. They were also the two biggest winners, in

circulation terms, of any magazine in any market. In fact, games titles

occupied seven of the top ten fastest-growing spots overall and a grand

total of eight of the top 11. But then that’s long been the nature of

the beast - periods of frantic growth followed by crashing decline as

the gaming market moves on to the next big thing. This time it might be

different. Sony is likely to cut the cost of its hardware to pounds 65

in the coming year to try to grow the four million user market in the UK

still further before launching PlayStation 2 next year.

In addition, according to the new Official PlayStation Magazine editor,

Mike Goldsmith, the titles are becoming less technology- and more

lifestyle-oriented. He claims to be selling more than 433,000 copies a

month since the ABC period, and now that Future has launched

PlayStationMax aimed at the children’s market, he can afford the luxury

of targeting some of the men’s magazine readership. Outside of the

gaming market there was some evidence that VNU had finally solved the

puzzle that has confounded publishers for years - how to produce a title

that appeals to technophobes.

Its Computer Active was the highest launch ABC recorded and, even if

that came partly on the back of a pounds 4 million launch campaign and

discount pricing, it was still a remarkable achievement.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Official PlayStation       Future                   380,186         84.9

Computer Active            VNU                      223,577            -

Essential PlayStation      Future                   173,412        300.7

Computer Shopper           Dennis                   169,298          0.1

Personal Comp World        VNU                      147,381          n/a

PC Pro                     Dennis                   146,062          5.2

Station                    Rapide                   132,645            -

PC Plus                    Future                   120,265         13.0

PC Format                  Future                    95,339        -10.3

Nintendo Magazine          Emap Active               95,154         50.6


There is little doubt that the national fascination with our homes has

now crossed over from a gentle, healthy interest into the realms of

obsession. It has also produced what is - in many observers’ minds - the

most competitive and volatile consumer magazine market of them all. In

that context, a 5 per cent sales drop by the market leading House

Beautiful was by no means a disaster.

In fact, the only one of the top five titles to put on sales was Homes &

Antiques, which leapt from fourth to second place as a result of its

near 6 per cent sales gain. But then, it is aimed at the upper end of

the home interest market, a niche which has fared far better than the

mass market.

None of its immediate and aspirational rivals, Country Living, Homes &

Gardens and House & Garden, actually lost sales over the period. It is

the middle market that has seen new arrivals: BBC Good Homes, IPC’s

Beautiful Homes and Living Etc all started out strongly, while G+J’s

Your Home was - in sales terms - the second-most successful single

launch of 1998.

Looking ahead, things are only going to get hotter. IPC is planning

another title in the sector while SPL’s Home magazine has relaunched

with a pounds 1 million war chest, a print run of 250,000 and a mission,

according to its publisher John Bease, of snatching sales from House


In return, House Beautiful’s publisher, Austin Hallworth, has fixed on

the figure of 100,000 sales as the benchmark for any title’s financial

survival in an increasingly dog-eat-dog market. ’We wish them the best

of luck,’ was his arch comment on the Home relaunch. In addition to the

new IPC title, the sector is going to come under siege in the coming

months from a new Good Housekeeping spin-off title, which will consist

of best buy recommendations for the home from the Good Housekeeping


Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Homebase Living            Redwood                  598,500        -22.3

House Beautiful            NatMags                  288,452         -5.4

Homes & Antiques           BBC                      213,571          5.9

Your Home                  G+J                      201,607            -

Ideal Home                 IPC                      200,070         -3.8

Homes & Ideas              IPC                      192,127        -12.0

Country Living             NatMags                  181,096          1.7

Homes & Gardens            IPC                      171,556          0.2

House & Garden             Conde Nast               163,313          0.0

Good Homes                 BBC                      145,361            -


When Time Inc paid pounds 1 million to acquire the obscure brainchild of

a journalist best known as the boyfriend of the designer, Patrick Cox,

some observers pointed to the vagaries of an unwieldy corporation trying

desperately to get hip. Now that Wallpaper has returned an ABC in excess

of 100,000 it doesn’t look quite so foolish. In fact, the style bible

saw a period-on-period improvement of almost a quarter and claims that

it’s not just the size of its readership that matters but what they do

with their larger-than-average incomes - namely spend them.

Elsewhere, the film market was left to provide much of the


Emap closed its well-regarded Neon title after its editor was poached by

Wagadon’s struggling Face and it failed to meet sales targets. Its

swansong ABC was 40,344. Future’s Total Film showed a little bit more of

what the sector was capable of with a 25 per cent uplift, while the

market leader, Empire, slipped back slightly. One surprise was the

performance of Uncut, which saw sales up by a fifth, although ironically

it closed just behind the now defunct Neon in the circulation pecking


In the less frenetic world of the gardening press, everything seemed,

well, rosy. BBC Gardeners’ World improved sales by nearly 6 per cent

while The Garden added more than 4 per cent. Elsewhere, there was a

first full winter ABC for Conde Nast Traveller, at a healthy-looking

60,225, even if that figure was sustained by an extraordinary 20,000

bulk sale.

Another Conde Nast title that defies easy classification, Vanity Fair,

has failed to make the leap to 100,000 sales that it was hoping for last

year, but performed respectably given the absence of any comparable

long-running crowd-pleaser to the trial of O.J. Simpson, which did so

much to boost the magazine’s UK profile.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Gardeners’ World           BBC                      321,366          5.9

Viz                        John Brown               301,019        -15.4

The Big Issue              The Big Issue            266,926         -4.2

The Garden                 Emap Apex                248,782          4.1

Thomas Cook                Redwood                  240,833          n/a

Triangle                   Haymarket                205,448         -1.2

Holiday Magazine           RCI Europe               199,181          7.7

Natural World              River Publishing         175,000          n/a

Empire                     Emap Consumer            160,696         -3.1

Garden Answers             Emap Active              119,156         -5.2


A year ago the smart money was on Emap Metro transforming Sky into a

weekly entertainment and listings title. That didn’t happen but Emap did

eventually get the weekly listings title it had talked about so


Codenamed Project J, it was launched earlier this year as Heat. Emap in

fact bridles at the description of its new flagship weekly as a listings

title, preferring to see it instead as the UK’s answer to the US giant,

Entertainment Week.

Johnny Vaughan, the mag’s first cover star, archly commented that he

thought the discarded working title, Project J, was the only really new

thing about the mag, but whether the public at large will share that

sentiment remains to be seen. Certainly, the newspapers are not going to

make it any easier for Heat or any of the other listings magazines.

The Mail on Sunday might be leading the way by taking its separate

listings supplement back inside the paper, but the pressure on the

listings titles is as remorseless as it has been since deregulation in

1991. The figures for the sector as a whole show it recording a

staggering 18.4 per cent improvement. Unfortunately, the figures lie.

They include, for instance, the first-time certification of Bauer’s TV

Quick and the near 50 per cent improvement of the freely distributed

Cable Guide.

Back in the real world of the newsstand, IPC found that what the ABC can

provide it can also take away, as an impressive 4 per cent gain for the

mass market leader, What’s On TV, was almost cancelled out by a 3.7 per

cent fall at the TV Times. The class of the sector remains Radio Times,

whose achievement in keeping sales steady was considerable.

Elsewhere, there were big jumps for Inside Soap, whose editor Vicky

Mayer has now jumped ship to Time Out, where she aims to help drag the

London listings bible kicking and screaming above the 100,000 level.

She is pledging more news, better gossip and - whisper it before the

delicate artistic spirits on Tottenham Court Road - a more up-to-date

design for the title.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Sky TV Guide               Redwood                3,403,912         -3.1

Cable Guide                Cable Guide            1,860,622         47.8

What’s On TV               IPC                    1,765,369          4.2

Radio Times                BBC                    1,400,331         -0.4

TV Times                   IPC                      850,282         -3.7

TV Quick                   H Bauer                  740,800          n/a

Inside Soap                Attic Futura             231,673         15.7

TV & Sat Weekly            IPC                      193,741          0.0

RTE Weekly                 RTE                      164,212         -2.6


For all the talk of the demise of the men’s magazine market, the ABC

figures paint a by no means uniformly gloomy picture. In fact the

overall men’s market increased by 7 per cent period on period over the

last six months of last year. Year on year the improvement was more than

14 per cent.

Compared with almost every other magazine market that is robust.

Unfortunately, the men’s magazine market grew by 27 per cent in the

preceding six-month period. Compared with its own phenomenal growth, in

other words, something has started to give. The exponential sales growth

of the market leader, FHM, has stalled at 750,000 copies a month, a

figure that won’t be causing Emap Metro any sleepless nights just yet.

’I think it’s fair to say that we are finally seeing the first stage of

maturity in the market. The first since the unprecedented growth

experienced by just four titles - FHM, Loaded, Maxim and Men’s Health,’

Eric Fuller, publishing director of Maxim’s owner, Dennis Publishing,


Accordingly, the publishers are looking at new niches within the men’s

market. The success of Men’s Health has renewed interest in the older,

post-Loaded end of the market. First off the mark is IPC with Later, the

first of what should be a raft of men’s titles targeting a slightly

older readership.

IPC managing director for music and sport Andy McDuff says he is hoping

for a settle down circulation of around 100,000 for the new title and is

prepared to invest pounds 2.5 million in the launch.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


FHM                        Emap Metro               751,493         16.7

Loaded                     IPC                      457,318          3.6

Maxim                      Dennis                   321,947         29.2

Men’s Health               Rodale Press             283,359         25.9

Empire                     Emap Metro               160,696         -3.1

Sky                        Emap Metro               132,480        -29.1

GQ                         Conde Nast               132,185          2.2

Esquire                    NatMags                  108,284          2.0

Bizarre                    John Brown                95,167         32.6

The Face                   Wagadon                   71,381        -29.1


For years this was the sector that would not die, despite seeming to be

living on borrowed time. Unfortunately it isn’t looking particularly

healthy after the latest batch of sales figures. The sector as a whole

fell back by 3.5 per cent year on year, although actually this overall

figure masked one or two promising results.

Good Housekeeping wasn’t one of them. The old stalwart still seemed to

be suffering the hangover of last year’s 75th birthday celebrations. Its

publishing director, Simon Kippin, has pledged to keep GH’s sales above

400,000 with promotional gifts and blamed an unusually hectic market for

the sales squeeze. Prima was another loser and its 11 per cent increase

of two years ago now looks more and more like an aberration. There were

also falls for Sainsbury’s: The Magazine, and for BBC Good Food. All to

a greater or lesser extent blamed the incursion of contract titles for

their difficulties, although two IPC paid-for titles, Essentials and

Yours, managed healthy sales gains.

The GH model of glossy production values and hard-nosed practical advice

is virtually a blueprint for the contract sector, in which department

Somerfield Magazine excelled, putting on almost 200,000 copies. Safeway

Magazine, meanwhile, closed in on a distribution of two million. Not all

contract titles did well: You and Yours cut back distribution by 16 per


Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Safeway Magazine           Redwood                1,997,063          n/a

Somerfield Magazine        Brass Tacks            1,177,307          8.0

You and Yours              Mediamark                510,675        -16.6

Prima                      G + J                    510,142         -5.7

Sainsbury’s Magazine       New Crane                410,767         -2.8

Good Housekeeping          NatMags                  400,063        -11.1

Woman & Home               IPC                      330,001         -4.1

BBC Good Food              BBC                      303,457         -6.3

Essentials                 IPC                      296,904          8.9

Family Circle              IPC                      280,687          0.1


Further proof that magazine publishing is not all about focus groups and

marketing strategies came with the results from Mixmag, a former

high-flying independent title that is emphatically not prospering under

corporate ownership. Neil Stevenson, its editor, diplomatically chose to

blame Emap’s decision to discontinue the use of the covermount rather

than, say, inflexible management for his title’s 29.1 per cent fall.

That there still is a market for dance music titles nonetheless was

demonstrated by the successful launch of Ministry magazine and by an

improvement in IPC’s re-worked Muzik title, both of which admittedly had

no similar scruples about covermounts.

But if Emap found the yoof just too tough to call it had no such

problems in appealing to the oldies. Q clawed back almost all the

circulation it lost this time last year, helped by the demise of its IPC

rival, Vox, while the wrinklies bible, Mojo, continued to move from

strength to strength.

And for IPC, Muzik was pretty much its only upbeat tune. The results of

a pounds 1 million investment in the weekly music papers, NME and Melody

Maker, made unequivocal reading as both continued to drift. Even the

teen titles found it hard work defending last year’s huge gains. Smash

Hits has retreated to the worrying position it found itself in two years

ago, and even Top of the Pops was hit by the fickleness of the


Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Q                          Emap Metro               210,765          4.3

NME                        IPC                       90,626         -9.5

Mojo                       Emap Metro                74,968          6.4

Select                     Emap Metro                71,302        -17.5

BBC Music                  BBC                       67,432         -1.8

Mixmag                     Emap Metro                65,624        -29.1

Gramophone                 Gramophone                53,507          0.6

Total Guitar               Future                    48,150          7.0

Muzik                      IPC                       43,084          6.7

Kerrang!                   Emap Metro                41,535         -0.1


They call it Zola Budd syndrome - after the South African middle

distance runner, who was fought over by two countries and subsequently

couldn’t win a race for either of them. Only here it is the football

titles occupying that position. They were hailed as the future of

sporting magazines a few years ago, once Nick Hornby had identified and

articulated a fervent national addiction, and publishers raced to be

first to market with new and improved offerings. But after the constant

exit of British clubs from Europe and a disappointing World Cup, these

same titles are no longer being seen as the sector’s saviours.

Despite the tactical withdrawal of both Goal and Sported magazines, only

two of the top ten football titles recorded a circulation increase over

the period. BBC’s Match of The Day was the real winner, leapfrogging

over Haymarket’s Four Four Two to become the best selling of the general

football monthlies.

Looking ahead, the sector’s eyes are now being cast anxiously in the

direction of Mirror Group and its proposed daily sporting newspaper, The

Sporting Life. Although the launch has been plagued by more problems

than your average NASA mission, the signs are that the title will make

its debut and even hope to sell as many as 220,000 copies a day. Its

readers, the magazine publishers fear, are exactly the sort of

sports-mad consumers currently propping up their titles.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Match                      Emap Active              128,035        -12.2

Man United Magazine        Zone Ltd                  91,972        -33.4

BBC Match of the Day       BBC                       90,407         38.3

Four Four Two              Haymarket                 80,468         -8.6

Angling Times              Emap Active               76,031         -7.6

Golf Monthly               IPC                       72,905          8.0

Shoot!                     IPC                       71,352        -24.7

Improve Your               Emap Active               64,273         -1.7

Coarse Fishing

World Soccer               IPC                       63,211         15.9

Fore!                      Emap Active               61,182         -0.1


The fortnightlies used to be a useful staging post for publishers caught

between the big budget gloss of the monthlies and the rough and ready

approach of the weeklies. Unfortunately, the weeklies started to get a

lot more glossy some time ago and their point of difference has became

harder and harder to discern. The result has been carnage.

The market leading More! no longer has a monopoly on those sassy young

women just waiting to gravitate to the glossies, while Big!’s revamp of

a year ago has only served to postpone what now looks like steady


Even DC Thomson’s redoubtable Shout found the sales rug pulled from

under it.

But there was a tiny ray of sunshine for the sector in the performance

of Mizz, a title that has been like a problem child for IPC for several

years now. It was given a new look 15 months ago as part of a pounds 1.5

million investment shared with its sister weekly, 19. The promotional

activity took some time to make an impression but has finally helped

stem the sales losses at both titles.

In the case of Mizz, it has done rather more than that, lifting it back

somewhere near respectability and proving once and for all that there

still is a market out there for girls who appreciate both sedate comic

strips and advice on the perfect snog.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


More!                      Emap Elan                293,369        -14.5

Shout                      DC Thomson               159,338        -20.1

Mizz                       IPC                      130,254         17.9

Big!                       Emap Metro               124,431        -39.6


In the frenzied world of magazine publishing it’s nice to know that

there are still some things you can rely on. And upheaval, backbiting

and downright bitchiness in the women’s monthly market are chief among

them. New Woman, Company, Elle and Marie Claire Health and Beauty all

acquired new editors during the reporting period while Marie Claire

itself and Woman’s Journal followed suit shortly afterwards. Of the

results themselves, the so-called middle-youth titles mirrored both the

best and worst of times for the sector as a whole.

B was the best performer in the women’s market, Wagadon’s Frank the

worst according to more than a few observers. Its first ABC under new

editor, Harriet Quick, reflected a 10 per cent period-on-period decline

and total sales of less than 40,000. Sandwiched somewhere in the middle

was Red, whose high-spending launch campaign indicated that a figure of

200,000 at least was attainable, but which it is still failing to

achieve. There was some good news for Marie Claire, which started to

close the gap on Cosmopolitan again after a couple of years when it has

come off second best. It has since failed in an audacious attempt to

tempt Mandi Norwood from Cosmo, settling instead on Liz Jones, the

deputy editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine. Then, just to prove

that loyalty has no place in the women’s monthly market, Woman’s Journal

editor and former Cosmo queen, Marcelle D’Argy Smith, quit IPC on

acrimonious terms shortly after the figures were released.

Magazine                   Publisher                    ABC      Year on

                                                 end Dec 98       year %


Cosmopolitan               NatMags                  476,288          3.3

Candis                     Newhall                  458,773         -1.1

Marie Claire               IPC                      445,289          7.2

Company                    NatMags                  290,402          2.2

Family Circle              IPC                      280,687          0.1

New Woman                  Emap Elan                261,681         -2.5

B                          Attic Futura             231,612         15.6

She                        NatMags                  226,079         -6.4

Vogue                      Conde Nast               202,321          0.1

Elle                       Emap Elan                200,436         -8.1


Aficionados of the fight to the death in this, the most valuable market

of them all, are in for a treat this year. Because if this round of ABCs

showed anything at all, it was that publishers are still struggling to

redefine the women’s weekly market.

The top five titles all lost sales and there is only so long the

publishers can get away with pointing to sales of scratchcards and

lottery tickets in their defence. And that means war. IPC has already

signalled its firm intention to increase its marketing spend to beyond

the pounds 10 million announced at the end of last year. So far that

spend has been translated into TV campaigns for Now, Chat, Woman and

Woman’s Weekly and this is likely to continue with increased intensity,

supported by IPC’s first-time three-for-two retail offer that takes in

all six of the publisher’s weekly titles as well as the TV Times.

These initiatives came too late to save Eva, relaunched into a sea of

indifference as a young woman’s glossy and subsequently closed. Bauer’s

market leading Take A Break continued to see its sales ebb and has lost

more than 200,000 sales in the past two-and-a-half years.

But special mention must go to OK! which is at last within hailing

distance of an increasingly haughty-looking Hello!. OK! shot through the

400,000 mark with its relentless diet of B-list soap stars and C-list


Magazine                   Publisher            &nb


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