The Top 100 Magazines: Motoring magazines

In last period's results, the publishers in the motoring sector were beginning to look slightly pleased with themselves for the first time in a while.

The market was up and it looked like the recent struggle might be coming to an end. So they will take even more comfort from this set of results because the market is up again and a number of magazines look to be in rude health.

Simon Carrington, the associate publisher at BBC Magazines' Top Gear, says: "The market has been really good this time round and it's starting to look like a bit of a trend. The glossy indulgent titles, such as us and Evo, are really doing well now."

In fact, Carrington's magazine is strengthening its position as the market leader and heading the mini recovery in the motoring sector. Looking more generally, it is also performing better than many other male-oriented titles, with only FHM and Men's Health among the men's titles selling more copies than Top Gear.

Carrington says: "We just managed to crack the 200,000 mark, which is a great achievement. Our glossy offering and editorial just seems to keep winning over the readers."

However, a big bone of contention for the other publishers in the motoring sector is that the magazine gets a massive helping hand via promotion from the BBC TV programme of the same name. Carrington counters this: "Of course we benefit from the programme, but we're part of the wider Top Gear brand and not reliant on it. There are books, DVDs and CDs backing the programme. Our offering in this market is now very robust on its own."

Third in the market is What Car?, Haymarket's listings title. Its circulation dropped slightly this period and this is put down to the difficulty that these magazines are facing in keeping readers coming back to the paper product when they can get listings information online.

However, the magazine has continued to invest in its editorial, which Darren Pitt, the group publishing manager, hopes will turn its fortunes around. He says: "In a tough market, What Car? has managed to stem the rate of decline in copy sales with lively, compelling editorial over the past six months. Plus, the overall consumer use of What Car? products, particularly, demonstrates its reach is greater than ever."

Putting on some readers in this sector is Autocar, also a Haymarket title, which managed to increase its circulation by 6.1 per cent to just over 60,000 copies, which the company attributes to a redesign.

Patrick Fuller, the publishing director, says: "We took a brave decision last year when we relaunched Autocar with staples instead of a spine. The strategy of making it easier to read, while preserving our reputation for quality, has worked better than we could have imagined."

The return of Max Power, the one-time alpha male read of the motoring sector, to the ABCs (it now only posts once a year) does not make happy reading. The once popular title saw its circulation drop by 36 per cent to 45,806 copies.

It was joined in a depressing slump by rival title Redline, which took a knock of 43.8 per cent year on year - spelling out trouble ahead for the modding sector.

Verdict Looking forward, the sector seems to be steadying itself and some easier times may be ahead. However, it still seems a little early for any action other than keeping the ship steady.

Carrington concludes: "I think the industry is probably about as big as it will be - someone would have to do something very special to put out a successful launch. They would definitely struggle to achieve good volumes; just look at what happened to Test Drive."

Motoring Title Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on- period year % change % change BBC Top Gear BBC Magazines 200,286 2.5 5.4 Motor Cycle News Bauer Consumer Media 128,801 n/a -4.1 What Car? Haymarket 107,812 -1.4 -3.0 Auto Express Dennis 81,786 -4.2 -4.9 Bike Bauer Consumer Media 81,579 n/a -9.4 Classic & Sports Car Haymarket 81,000 -1.1 -0.9 Evo Dennis 77,611 1.0 2.8 Car Bauer Consumer Media 75,031 -6.6 1.8 Autocar Haymarket 60,505 1.8 6.1 Practical Classics Bauer Consumer & Car Restorer Media 59,651 -0.6 -0.6 Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2007.

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