Consumer ABCs: Industry reaction

10 Feb 2017 
Consumer ABCs: Industry reaction

The latest ABC results for the July - December 2016 period chart all the trends for the consumer magazine market. Here, industry experts from Zenith, MC&C and Transform digest the findings.

Dave Mulrenan, joint head of trading, Zenith UK


So, another year and yet more focus on how print circulations are faring in the magazine world. Question, in what other industry do we only look at part of the company’s distribution strategy and then decide whether they are doing well or badly based upon this?

These companies are not just print media owners, they are content providers. Circulation, website, digital distribution, e-editions, social and live events/brand extensions are all ways that media owners can make their content accessible to consumers. It seems a bizarre way to measure the health of a company.

So, rant over, let’s look at the numbers. Women’s monthlies performed OK with a -3% decrease YoY (based upon UK/ROI circulation), when you remove InStyle and Essentials which are no longer in printed versions.

Men’s titles performed well with -1% performance but there was lots of volatility, with Coach launching and closing, NME becoming part of the set and Sport producing its final issue last week.

Women’s fashion and celeb weeklies, not surprisingly, had the toughest time with 15% decline. Not unexpected, when a lot of this content is available immediately online. Women’s traditional weeklies were also hit hard with an 8% decline.

This is to be expected as consumers discover these brands’ content in different ways, via different platforms.

Hearst was relatively successful due in part to their experimentation with dynamic distribution. These developments should be encouraged and supported by clients as the industry moves into new waters.

The biggest winner from a media owner’s perspective was Immediate Media, who posted a 1.2% increase YOY largely due to the success of their kids’ titles. Whether this is due to a ‘digital’ backlash by parents or the success of franchises like Lego and Star Wars is open to debate.

Mark Jackson managing director, MC&C


The growth of news-led, and in particular satirical magazines like Private Eye, is proof that magazines need to have a strong proposition to stand out in a crowded market.

These media owners are succeeding because they are owning a space in a post-truth worth flooded with fake news by instead offering trusted analysis and refreshing honesty. Whilst it looks positive in that category, however, figures suggest women’s magazines are struggling to do the same amidst widespread competition.

The proliferation of female-focused magazines, plus a host of online-only content platforms aimed at women – particularly in the form of beauty and fashion vloggers through platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat – means that even the digital offerings of women’s mags are struggling to compete.

However, from an advertising perspective the connection that advertisers can establish through print media cannot be overlooked. We know that people spend more time with physical print than online and the connection and impact brands can have here is a meaningful one.

Vogue is continuing to perform, and the majority of the magazine is advertising, so we can’t ignore the impact of the format.

From a performance angle, advertisers should not write off print media as a dying breed, but rather see how different audiences connect across the digital and print space, optimising messaging to work across both mediums – drawing new audiences in through offline print and converting purchases once the journey becomes digital.

Ultimately, while traditional media will continue to face challenging headlines, but they remain a vital part of the media mix when reaching the right audience.

Johan Hogsander, managing director, Transform

In a world of instant up-to-date “he said, she said” 24/7 commentary, the glossy magazines are, too often, too late to the party. Their digital presence isn’t nimble or strongly branded enough to compete with the directness of Twitter, the togetherness of Facebook, or shiny aspirational Instagram.

It’s not surprising that in the tail end of the year that gave us Brexit and Trump the more cerebral publications are thriving. People want to know what’s going on, especially in the brave new world of fake news.

Private Eye and the Spectator are the tip of the iceberg for the kinds of quality journalism that will continue to do very well. People understand the difference between the potentially prejudiced but consistent position of the New Statesman and the kinds of propaganda they’re accidentally hoovering up on their Facebook feed.

Frankly, the divisiveness of social media is driving lots of people underground. They simply don’t want to see things that make them feel angry, conflicted or sad. Titles that are even-handed, despite taking a position, are increasingly valuable.

Personally, I can see a gap for a more moderated online discussion space – incorporating the best of digital, with (potentially) AI enhanced fact-checking and the banning, or at least calling out, of those who don’t comply. At a time when the Daily Mail is no longer considered a trustworthy source for Wikipedia, it’s clearly time to clean out the Augean Stables of online discussion and behaviour.

Yet despite these results paper isn’t going to disintegrate, but it is falling to its minimum viable circulation. Blame podcasts, the iPad and the minimalist movement all you like for the slow death of monthly mags – but the media industry is still craving the magic medicine that will attract readers, keep them absorbing content and eventually pay for it.

As CMOs get better at data, analytics and digital ROI, we’ll see content providers figure out new ways to drive value for readers and ad-buyers. Until then the glacial decline of print will continue to fail to surprise any of us in this fast-paced digital world.

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