It was another tough six months for men's magazines, as lifestyle titles aimed at men sold 10% less copies in the UK and Ireland between July and December 2018, according to the latest set of ABC figures.
Hearst UK’s Men’s Health had the biggest proportional drop in overall circulation – down 21% year on year – but remained the bestselling title in the sector by far with an average of 79,108 copies actively purchased between July and December 2018.
The publisher said its brands are "commanding an ever-more affluent audience of high-net-worth individuals" as it has increased cover prices "significantly" over the past 12 months and continued with its "dynamic distribution" model where the publisher takes the titles to its audience at certain locations and events.
Condé Nast’s GQ followed with 60,506 copies actively purchased per issue in the final six months of 2018, a fall of 10% year on year. Rival Esquire, published by Hearst UK, declined 16% to 21,880 copies sold. It was not all bad news for Condé Nast, as Wired was the only title to report growth in the men’s sector: up 7% to 28,465 actively purchased magazines a month in the second half of 2018.
Condé Nast Britain's managing director Albert Read told Campaign: "Whilst the newsstands remain particularly difficult for the men’s market, GQ’s website saw a 43% traffic increase in January 2019. British GQ remains the market leader in men’s magazines with strong performance relative to our peer group."
Sarah Johnson, audio and publications business director at Havas Media Group, agreed that it has been a challenging time for publishers in this sector, especially as ShortList closed last year. However, she said: "It is encouraging to see investment in this sector with the launch of new premium free title The Jackal, although it is not likely to fill the gap left by ShortList. What's next for this sector? The recent relaunch of Esquire in a bigger and more premium format aims to position the title as a luxury brand reaching a guaranteed high net worth audience."
Autocar, which is owned by Haymarket Media Group, which also publishes Campaign, grew its actively purchased figure by 3% year on year to 28,240 copies. It is the second consecutive rise for the brand since Mark Tisshaw became editor in 2017 and oversaw a relaunch in the spring that year.
Dennis Publishing’s Land Rover Monthly also achieved 3% year-on-year growth in its actively purchased circulation, bringing it to 13,544 copies.
Bauer Media’s Classic Cars was the third (and final) magazine in the sector to grow in terms of actively purchased. It rose 1% year on year to 23,821.
MCN, also published by Bauer, was the highest-selling motoring title with 54,316 copies actively purchased each month in the second half of the year. However, that was down 8% year on year.
The steepest fall in the motoring sector was BBC Top Gear Magazine – down 13% to 53,193 copies sold, putting it in second place behind MCN.
Overall, actively purchased magazines in the final six months of 2018 were down 14% on the same period of 2017 at 594,559.
News and current affairs
The number of magazines actively purchased in the news and current affairs sector fell by 10% year on year to 933,291.
The Economist has changed the way it reports its figures. The title has consolidated its reporting into one print certificate and one digital publications certificate instead of six, because it says it wants to provide greater transparency.
The business has worked with the ABC to consolidate the certificates, which now include "audited breakouts of circulation by edition/region". Under this new reporting method, The Economist’s combined average global circulation is 1.7 million. In the UK its actively purchased has grown 24%.
Marina Haydn, executive vice-president and managing director for circulation at The Economist, said: "Our audited reporting needed to reflect The Economist’s product neutrality – we allow customers to choose their preference between print and digital. A majority of our readers choose to purchase both together at a premium price.
"That's why there was a need for a new ABC reporting approach that reflects our true digital market share; it had been challenging for clients who wanted to set up holistic programs across our platforms."
As a result of this, it is not possible to compare like-for-like figures with other titles in the sector.
The Spectator had the biggest growth in the top 50 with a 23% rise to 85,484 copies. Private Eye sold 220,756 copies a month in the final six months of 2018, a 5% fall year on year. Dennis Publishing’s The Week Junior's 35% year-on-year rise in actively purchased (53,702 copies) means it had the highest growth in the pack.