The Top 100 Magazines: Customer magazines

The customer magazine sector experienced something of a boom during 2007, with more launches from larger brands than ever before.

Eight of the UK's top-ten consumer titles are now customer magazines, with the top seven titles in the market all customer titles. Some 33 of the top 100 consumer titles are customer magazines, which represents a 50 per cent increase on the year before.

Much of this can be attributed to major launches from the likes of John Lewis, and Ford. In addition, established magazines, such as the rebranded number-one title News Magazines' Skymag (formerly Sky the magazine), continued to post impressive numbers. Cedar's Tesco Magazine recorded the highest circulation growth of any magazine in the top 100, with a period-on-period rise of 25.3 per cent.

Daniel Davey, the director of account management at Cedar, said: "This is great news for brands and advertisers looking to piggyback on the level of engagement that Tesco has with its customers. We are working on the hugely successful Tesco Mum of the Year Awards, now in its third year, which has largely been driven through the magazine."

Ikea Family Live, which published its second ABC figure, was one of the few customer titles to show a major decline. Its publisher, August Media, puts this down to the fact it was looking to maximise circulation for the launch issue before aiming to settle the title at around the 300,000 mark.

Significant new customer magazine entrants in the ranks of the top 100 magazines included John Brown's new title for John Lewis, Source, which is in 19th place, Forward's Ford Magazine in 22nd, and a new title for the fashion retailer through Seven Squared, now the UK's 42nd largest consumer title.

Sean King, a director at Seven Squared, argues there is more growth ahead for Magazine. "We have plans in place to deliver huge circulation growth over the next 12 to 18 months, which will see Magazine reach more fashion-savvy young women than any newsstand fashion title."

From April, Seven Squared will begin selling third-party advertising and inserts in the title, claiming its audience of fashion-conscious young women is a valuable one to advertisers.

Julia Hutchison, the chief operating officer of the Association of Publishing Agencies, says: "We saw a lot of growth last year, and it's been similar so far this year. We can now prove the effectiveness of what these titles can do as a marketing tool and how they can work as an integrated part of a marketing strategy."

Hutchison says that customer publishing can also outride any potential economic downturn because titles can help marketers retain customers at a time when it's more difficult and potentially more expensive to acquire new customers.

Keith Grainger, the chief executive of Redwood Publishing, says: "We're buoyant and the industry appears to be buoyant. This is a reflection that what we do works."

Redwood, which has launched large titles for Mazda and Virgin Media in recent months, is an example of a publisher that is offering greater numbers of solutions across media. For instance, its mass circulation Boots magazine is supported by projects such as the online Boots health and beauty clubs, which are then backed up with print communications. "Clients are increasingly open to innovative ways of reaching customers and doing tactical things," Grainger concludes.

The APA echoes Grainger's point about the increasing flexibility at some of the major customer publishing houses. Hutchison says that the APA's new-business service is glimpsing a noticeable upturn in client briefs that demand integrated solutions across print, online and mobile. "Publishers are creating more online content, but this is alongside a growth in print rather than at its expense," she adds.

Another favourable aspect to the new-business process, many leading publishers say, is that the majority of briefs are new rather than existing business to be snatched from rivals at tighter margins.

Publishers may also notice a benefit from a move towards greater segmentation of audiences by clients, an approach adopted by Sky with its various titles. Emily Fovargue, the head of publishing at Royal Mail, says: "As fragmentation is increasing, customer magazines may look to segment titles more, along the lines of Sky's magazine, making it easier for brands to improve engagement and targeting with key demographic audiences through the post."

Verdict The prospect for customer titles looks good as brands are looking to retain customers in a difficult economic climate. Mass circulation titles from retailers are being accompanied by more specifically targeted products at segments of an audience, which will help fuel growth in the sector.

Title Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
Skymag News Magazines 7,262,912 3.2 3.7
Sky Sports
Magazine (UK) Haymarket Network 4,393,606 n/a n/a
Sky Movies Magazine
(UK) Future 3,730,558 n/a n/a
Asda Magazine Publicis
Blueprint 2,910,280 3.8 6.1
Tesco Magazine Cedar
Communications 2,436,491 25.3 0.7
The National
Trust Magazine National Trust 1,821,846 n/a 6.6
Sainsbury's Fresh
Ideas Seven Publishing 1,500,218 -0.5 1.8
The Somerfield
Magazine Rare 1,197,371 -0.4 -3.8
Sky Kids John Brown 757,102 1.5 n/a
Debenhams Desire Publicis Blueprint 747,251 0.0 0.0
Saga Magazine Saga Group 651,096 -1.2 6.6
Birds RSPB 608,975 -0.3 -1.2
Source John Brown 592,575 n/a n/a
Ford Magazine Forward 535,470 n/a n/a
Blockbuster Preview Publicis Blueprint 494,500 n/a n/a
Cineworld Unlimited BBC Magazines 480,480 -4.0 -8.4
Skymag (Ireland) News Magazines 454,283 5.6 9.8
Homebase Ideas Publicis Blueprint 423,330 1.4 1.2
Emma's Diary Lifestyle
Pregnancy Guide Marketing 414,155 1.2 1.5
The Vauxhall
Magazine Brooklands Group 410,000 n/a 0.1
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2007.