The women's market as a whole grew by close to 3 per cent; however, this growth is not extending to the classic and real-life weekly end of the sector. A number of titles recorded double-figure declines in circulation, with the real-life market hit particularly hard; H Bauer's Take a Break, the best-selling magazine in the sector, and That's Life both sold fewer copies.
This didn't stop the celebrity titles from having yet another good year. OK! fought back to leapfrog Emap's Closer and secure the lead position in the category. Despite recording a dip in its year-on-year circulation, the Northern & Shell-owned title increased circulation by 13.9 per cent in the period from July to December 2006, helped by the Cheryl Tweedy and Ashley Cole wedding issue, which sold 1.1 million copies.
Emap's Closer and Heat continued to grow their market share, with both titles recording year-on-year and period-on-period increases. But it was a different story for Emap's First, which struggled to a debut circulation of 100,439 copies. Despite its sluggish start, the publisher remains confident that First will prosper, and has appointed the Closer editor, Jane Johnson, as its editor-in-chief to build momentum.
Sophie Wybrew-Bond, the publishing director at Emap Entertainment, says: "We said we wanted to be at 150,000 after a year, and that will be in May, so the next ABC is the one to look out for.
"The celebrity market is still growing in terms of retail sales and volume. I think success in this category is very much about strong brands, and the magazines that inspire brand loyalty will continue to do well."
Overall, the market's rapid growth, which was driven by a number of launches in recent years, could slow this year, during which the infighting for readers within the sector will hot up. However, the impact of IPC's Look (which launched in January) has yet to be seen.
Colin Morrison, the chief executive at ACP-NatMag, which publishes Best, Real People and Reveal, says: "I don't think they are going to find it easy. The weekly market has shown it can accommodate growth, and it has been the skill of the publishers to grow the sector and attract new readers. The sector has grown fast, and I think that will slow up a little bit now."
Verdict The celebrity titles continue to create a huge buzz in the market, but this is expected to settle down a little this year, as the hype of new launches passes and the titles try to maintain their positions. It is too early to predict the impact that Look will have on the market, but IPC has invested £18 million across its first two years, making it the publisher's biggest-ever launch. It's performance will be one to watch.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
% change % change
Take a Break H Bauer 1,027,013 -5.1 -11.1
OK! Northern & Shell 624,091 13.9 -4.0
Closer Emap 614,141 4.1 6.2
Heat Emap 598,623 3.2 4.1
Now IPC 540,132 0.0 -6.5
Chat IPC 537,464 -3.1 -10.8
That's Life H Bauer 464,762 -5.2 -15.5
New! Northern & Shell 456,987 -0.4 7.2
Pick Me Up IPC 424,410 -4.6 -13.7
Hello! Hello! 412,807 2.3 5.7
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2006.