The overall magazine market fell by 7% year on year to 16.3 million copies, in terms of actively purchased copies per average issue in the UK and Ireland when the numbers for print and digital issues are combined.
The women’s magazine market was broadly in line with that performance, with the women’s lifestyle and fashion sector down 7% year on year to 2.3 million actively purchased copies and the women’s weeklies sector down 8% year on year (excluding the impact of Hearst UK's closure of Reveal in October 2018) to 2.8 million actively purchased copies.
Women's lifestyle and fashion
Cosmopolitan’s actively purchased circulation dropped by 38% year on year to 180,057 copies an issue in the final six months of 2019. This left it with just under half of the circulation of its Hearst UK stablemate and market leader Good Housekeeping, which outperformed its rivals by dropping just 2% to 363,880 copies.
Hearst pointed to Cosmo’s coverprice increase from £1 to £2 last year as mitigating circumstances. It added: "The brand continues to break new ground, most recently partnering with SpareRoom to offer four individuals a month-long paid scholarship at Cosmopolitan with central London accommodation included.
"Its editor-in-chief, Farrah Storr, was also named Editor of the Year at the 2018 PPA Awards and Editor of the Year (Men’s & Women’s category) at the 2018 BSME Awards."
One bright spot for Hearst was the 6% gain for Red to 135,104 copies, but its other titles lost sales, particularly Harper’s Bazaar, which shed 14% of its actively purchased circulation to 36,455 copies.
Hearst was not the only publisher of magazines underperforming the lifestyle/fashion market trend: TI Media's Marie Claire fell by 26% to 71,367 copies and Newhall Publishing’s Candis lost 10% to 81,202 copies.
Sector success stories included Hello!, up 1% to 187,466; Hello! Fashion Monthly, up 4% to 83,224; and Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair, up 6% to 30,029.
In the higher-volume women’s weeklies sector, it was TI Media’s portfolio that drew attention, with four of its five titles underperforming the market.
Chat, the third-highest-selling publication in the sector, dropped 9% year on year to 197,319 actively purchased copies an issue between July to December 2018, while Now lost more than 44% of its circulation, leaving it on 42,618 copies.
In-between those extremes, Woman shed 20% to 131,584 and Woman’s Own lost 19%, leaving it on 122,548.
However, their performance was put in context by Mark Winterton, managing director of TI Media’s women’s weeklies and TV titles.
"We are starting to see the benefit of our bold decision to go against the grain and remove our women’s weeklies titles from bigger packs," Winterton said. "Significant growth in single copy sales at the newsstand can be seen for Woman and Woman’s Own, which have climbed 10% and 4% on the year and period respectively.
"While the overall ABC results reflect the initial impact of stripping out the bigger packs from our promotional activity, which inflates sales figures, these single-copy sales are indicative of the rewards of doing so."
No other titles underperformed the market’s 8% drop, but Hearst UK’s Real People and TI Media’s Woman’s Weekly fell in line to 109,127 and 217,875 copies respectively. There was a 7% hit to the market leader, Bauer Media’s Take a Break, to 457,541 copies.
Only three of the 18 actively purchased titles in the sector actually added sales, led by Bauer’s Bella with a 6% rise to 171,736 copies, putting it in fifth place.
The other two risers were Bauer’s Heat, up 5% to 112,799 copies in the final six months of 2018, and ACH Publishing’s Love It!, up 4% to 87,238 copies.
Sarah Johnson, audio and publications business director at Havas Media Group, said the women’s sector offered a "mixed bag of results".
"The weeklies suffered the closure of Reveal in the second half of the year. However, strong growth in digital and positive news for some, including Hello! posting growth in both print and digital editions due to royal weddings and baby announcements," she said.
"In the monthly arena, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire were main drivers of the overall decrease. Both magazines' coverprices have risen, and Marie Claire has cut back on multi-packing, attributing to the circulation declines. They are also focusing more on editorial content rather than promotion of the magazine itself.
"A real success story is Women’s Health [published by Hearst] which saw its 13th consecutive increase period-on-period [albeit not on the actively purchased measure] and was named PPA Consumer Magazine of the Year 2018."
Top 50 actively purchased magazines
Women’s titles dominate the list of the top 50 actively purchased magazines in the UK and Ireland and accounted for seven of the eight entries with year-on-year rises in actively purchased circulations.
The eighth, The Spectator, came from the current affairs sector and enjoyed the biggest boost of them all with a 23% rise to 85,484 copies.
However, the top 50 actively purchased magazines as a whole were in line with the overall market, down 7% to 10.3 million copies.
The three worst performers were Cosmopolitan, which declined 38% to 180,057; The Economist, down 36% to 161,839; and National Geographic, down 23% to 138,456.
However, The Economist claimed its numbers were distorted due to its July to December 2017 figure including print and digital issues and its July to December 2018 figure only including print.
In a statement, The Economist said: "Since launching our digital editions and apps, The Economist has created a customer-centric strategy in allowing our readers to choose their format of preference, and the result has been that the majority of our readers have chosen to purchase both a print and a digital subscription together at a premium price.
"However, due to how we have traditionally been audited by ABC, it looked like The Economist was keeping its strength around its print offering, with our true digital market share not visible enough to our clients and partners.
"In order to make more transparent, verified data available for advertisers and more accurately reflect our global reach and platform-agnostic approach, we have worked closely with ABC to consolidate our previous six reporting certificates (one for each region) into two new certificates; one print and one digital, both with worldwide data, which will make clearer the number of digital copies sold – and we hope become a standard-bearer in the industry."
The Economist’s digital global circulation for actively purchased was 790,062 copies compared with its print global circulation of 867,733 copies.
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