The Top 100 Magazines: Women's weeklies

OK! magazine and its big cheque-book have proven a winning combination in a difficult women's weeklies sector, with the magazine boosting its circulation by more than a fifth during the latter half of 2007.

It lured readers with a combination of exclusives - Jordan and Charlotte Church's new babies among its biggest-selling issues - and a serious investment in television advertising, in the region of £3.25 million, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

Overall, circulation of women's weeklies was down 5.2 per cent in 2007. Notably, Bauer Consumer Media's celeb-laden weeklies Closer and Heat couldn't match the might of OK!, each reporting a decline in circulation.

However, it is worth noting that the publisher has made investments in cross-platform expansion of both brands. That said, some observers worry the celebrity market is overcrowded. Clare Rush, the head of press at Mediaedge:cia, says: "The celebrity market has reached saturation at this point."

In the real-life sector, Bauer's Take a Break maintained its reign, still managing to outsell any other title by a significant margin, and hanging on to its million-plus circulation by the skin of its teeth. Bella, which has been revamped for a younger audience, recorded the most dramatic falls, losing nearly a third of its circulation over the year. Rush suggests that younger readers weren't aware of the revamp. "But Bella will eventually get it right," predicts Rush.

Those predicting that traditional women's weeklies have had their day do not include IPC. Last week, the publisher revealed that it is investing £1 million revamping Woman magazine. The introduction of a more upmarket look and larger format comes 18 months after a wholesale reinvention of the brand.

Overall, Marcus Rich, the new managing director of Bauer London Lifestyle, thinks that sales of women's weeklies will remain buoyant.

"Our analysis indicates that there are two distinct trends. One is the mig-ration of readers of monthly magazines to weekly ones. And the second is the demise of what I call the 'lean-back readership' - the time spent relaxing in the evening with a magazine, which is now taken up by internet browsing," Rich says. "Weeklies are read during lunch breaks or coffee breaks, or while waiting outside the school in short bursts, and this can't be replaced."

Verdict The women's sector will remain under pressure as potential readers get their kicks from other forms of entertainment, such as online gossip sites and social networking. However, titles such as OK! will continue to thrive if they buy big stories, as will brands branching out across platforms.

In the short term, real-life titles might have stemmed the decline sparked by the rise of the celeb magazine. However, with the market getting older, and the failure to produce a new generation of avid readers, their long-term future is uncertain.

Title Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
Take a Break H Bauer 1,001,003 -1.7 -2.5
OK! Northern & Shell 683,451 22.7 9.5
Closer Bauer Consumer
Media 548,594 -3.8 -10.7
Heat Bauer Consumer
Media 533,034 -4.5 -11.0
Chat IPC 519,413 1.5 -3.4
Now IPC 470,290 -4.8 -12.9
New! Northern & Shell 464,727 5.1 1.7
That's Life H Bauer 459,634 3.6 -1.1
Pick Me Up IPC 426,327 -4.6 0.5
Hello! Hello! 405,615 -3.4 -1.7
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2007.