The latest round of consumer magazine ABCs once again reflect a market of brands in constant evolution.

Despite a decline of 5% in overall print circulation, the significant increase of 37% in online readership again points to the continued demand for quality editorial. Perhaps most significantly, a 3% increase in actual digital purchase shows people are actively selecting magazine content and its point of difference. In a world of fake news and brand safety concerns, the trusted journalism and deeper relationships of magazines ensures it remains an important and increasingly unique medium. Here, we look at how each sector has fared, and how we can expect magazine brands and offerings to evolve.

As with previous periods, the different sectors vary in terms of print performance. In the women’s monthlies market, the heritage of Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, now in its 95th year, continues to lead the way, up marginally year-on-year at 4% over the previous six months. The ‘dynamic’ distribution implemented so successfully by Hearst across its monthlies, such as Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, is now being rolled out as an ‘intelligent’ version by Time Inc, with copies of Marie Claire now distributed in their beauty store, Fabled. It will be interesting to see if others follow suit in this transition away from actively purchased sales. Brand extensions like Fabled also play a particularly key role in the future of magazines as a way of replacing declining traditional revenue streams. The ‘Hearst Live’ events team, for example, have tripled in size and are looking to produce more than 100 brand experiences this year.

The weeklies market continues to struggle more, with the plethora of titles, especially in the celebrity market, facing stiff competition from a wide range of online rivals. Look was the biggest casualty year-on-year, with a decrease of 37%, but Time Inc will point to increased stability in the last six months with a drop of 4%. The one clear exception to this is Hello (and its sister title, Hello Fashion Monthly), who continue to satisfy the public demand for the new modern royals with a 6% increase and look ahead to another promising looking 2018.

In the more traditional weekly market, most titles saw declines, though market leader Take a Break‘s circulation remains high at almost half a million. Similarly, most TV titles saw declines but numbers are remarkably strong – another H Bauer title, TV Choice, still selling an incredible 1.2 million copies every week.

After a turbulent few years, the men’s lifestyle market remains relatively stable. Shortlist continues to maintain its circulation of over 500,000 copies, while paid for titles Men’s Health and GQ have stayed fairly consistent, the latter probably helped by the presence of Jeremy Corbyn on the front cover of its December issue.

It is perhaps magazine brands’ unique role in the specialist market that demonstrates one if its key strengths in the current media world and continued potential for the future. Current affairs titles generally continue to perform well, with The Economist UK up 8% this period and, most positively, younger readers are engaging with this sector through The Week Junior, now at a circulation of over 48,000. Other tailored titles that increased circulation included BBC Good Food, Country Living and Weightwatchers magazines.

Going forward, we will also watch with particular interest to see if the Facebook algorithm changes will influence the digital, and potentially print, sales of magazines. Readers will have to search harder to find brands’ content but, as quality content and personal connections become even more important, the magazine industry will need to adapt in another stage in their evolution.


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