TI Media and Hearst suffer biggest declines as women's mags tumble once again

TI Media suffered the biggest circulation drop of the UK's leading magazine publishers for the second six-month period in a row, the latest ABC figures show.

Hearst: Harper's Bazaar and Women's Health's circulation figures have grown, both against the previous year and the previous six months
Hearst: Harper's Bazaar and Women's Health's circulation figures have grown, both against the previous year and the previous six months

The publisher, formerly known as Time Inc, had a total average circulation across 16 titles of 2.75 million, down 11% year-on-year.

Hearst, meanwhile, suffered an 8% decline in total circulation to 2.5 million copies. The UK’s biggest-selling magazine publisher by total circulation, Bauer, saw its total fall by 3% to 3.03 million. Each of the three publishers saw their actively purchased circulation decline at the same rate as their total circulation.

Across all women’s magazines, actively purchased copies were down 7.8% to 7,948,000, with the sharpest decline in women’s weeklies, down 10% to 3,050,000.

Among women’s weeklies, TI Media’s two biggest titles, Woman’s Weekly and Chat, were both down by 10%, while Bauer’s market leader Take a Break was down 8% to 472,000.

The 19 titles under women’s lifestyle and fashion did slightly better, with the sector as a whole down 6%. The most improved performance was Hello!, which increased total circulation 8% and actively purchased copies 11%.

But Hearst’s Cosmopolitan suffered a collapse of 25% total circulation, and 28% actively purchased copies – which the publisher said came after it doubled its cover price from £1 to £2.

In men’s lifestyle, actively purchased copies were down 7% across the three titles tracked, with the decline almost entirely accounted for by Men’s Health, down 14% to 93,000, while GQ was down 2% and Esquire up 1%.

In news and current affairs, total actively purchased copies in the UK and Ireland were up 2.9% to 872,000. The Economist boosted its copies 9% to 258,000, pulling comfortably ahead of the next largest, Private Eye, which was down 6% to 221,000. The biggest grower was children’s spin-off The Week Junior, which was up 43% to 52,000.

TI Media said the sales of its weeklies had been hit by a strategic decision to cut out packs containing more than one magazine.

"Bigger packs, while offering a discounted package that boosts sales, aren’t valued by those consumers who wish to buy only the individual magazine they care about," Mark Winterton, managing director, women’s weeklies and TV at TI Media, said. "There are times when these packs alone are available and this limits choice.

"We’ve focused instead on improving the editorial strength of our magazines, with every weekly title in our portfolio benefiting from redevelopment. While these ABCs figures reflect our removal of bigger packs, we’re encouraged by initial positive signs in the underlying sales performance."

Hearst, meanwhile, pointed out that four of its titles had grown both year-on-year and period-on-period: Harper’s Bazaar, Red, Women’s Health and Elle Decoration.

James Wildman, chief executive of Hearst, said: "It's an incredibly exciting time for Hearst UK as we innovate across print, digital and our events."

The latest ABCs come after new Ofcom research found magazines are more trusted than any other news platform, and rated more favourably for quality, accuracy and engagement.

According to Ofcom, 80% of readers say magazine brands are "trustworthy", 82% perceive them as "high quality" and 84% believe they offer "a depth of analysis and content that is not available elsewhere", beating other sources of news such as TV, radio, newspapers and social media.

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