Consumer magazine publishers opt out of reporting ABC data

Lack of travel and footfall to high streets during lockdown blamed for lower sales.

Hearst: titles include Cosmopolitan
Hearst: titles include Cosmopolitan

Condé Nast, Hearst UK, Future and Reach are among the consumer magazine publishers that have opted not to report their half-year circulation figures today because of the impact of coronavirus.

Hearst, which publishes Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Women's Health, explained that it plans to incorporate the January to June figures into a full-year release set to be published in February next year.

Its chief executive, James Wildman, said that although Hearst has seen a "significant increase" in subscriptions and sales at convenience stores, the company has been affected in other distribution channels, such as traditional high street and travel points.

He added: "We believe a six-month release will not accurately provide a robust view of our true circulation figures, particularly in comparison to January to June 2019.

"Instead, we plan to deliver an annual release in February next year, which will be more representative and, in the meantime, our customers can access our audience numbers as usual through the gold-standard PAMCo service."

According to ABC's industry-agreed reporting rules, publishers have the choice to report either six monthly, 12 monthly or both.

Today, a total of 17 publishers have decided to report circulation figures for 71 titles for the six months to 30 June, compared with 36 publishers for 139 brands over the same period last year.

Patrick Dolan, senior investment director at Spark Foundry, said that the move to annual reporting should be welcomed because it provides a more "holistic" view.

"Magazines are growing their brands through digital platforms, social, video, events and brand extensions and to focus solely on a circulation number is not the way we would judge a potential partner; we consider their full brand reach and capabilities," he said.

Dolan added that the "huge increases" that publishers are seeing in their subscriber base is a "big positive" for brands and agencies as it gives a better insight into the reader, such as their age, location and gender.

Bauer Media and Immediate Media are two of the bigger publishers that have opted to report their figures for the six months to 30 June.

Chris Duncan, chief executive of UK Publishing at Bauer, explained that the company wanted to provide "full transparency" and show the "unique circumstances" that the business has traded in. Bauer publishes titles including Take A Break, Closer, Heat and Grazia.

"While our traditional supply-chain experienced massive disruption during lockdown, the demand for our products remained strong and even increased in some markets," Duncan said. "We saw home-delivered and digital copies grow through our subscriptions channels, and sales in independent shops rise as more of our readers sought out copies closer to home."

He added that circulation "remains on track for robust recovery" for the second half of the year as distribution patterns settle.

Bauer's TV Choice remains the top-selling title at one million actively purchased copies, down 7% year on year. Heat experienced the biggest percentage decline for the publisher, down 31% to 74,172, followed by Closer, down 27% to 115,192.

Immediate Media saw its special interest titles grow market share over the six months. BBC Gardeners' World grew 8% and BBC Good Food had a 1% rise, however Radio Times fell 10%.

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