Roy Greenslade is just as perplexed as David Hepworth when it comes to the latest ABC sales results. Greenslade identifies:
- Winners: Esquire, OK!, Glamour and Good Housekeeping.
- Losers: Hello!, Maxim, Now, Heat and FHM.
- No breakthrough/jury’s out: Easy Living, Grazia and ShortList.
He quotes an International Federation of the Periodical Press report that predicts UK magazines’ share of ad spend is set to fall from 13% in 2007 to 12.6% this year. If that forecast does come true, the fight for revenue will result in what always happens: the leading titles in their sector will see off the weakest – and the same trend will occur among sectors.
Take mainstream men’s magazines. There have been two big cullings in the sector:
- in the mid-late 1950s when the biggest titles went to the wall – Lilliput, London Opinion, Esquire and Razzle.
- 10 years later, when Club, King, Men in Vogue, Town and Men Only all closed after a surge in launches in the Swinging Sixties. (Though many of these titles were bought up by porn publishers.)
The sector revived in the 1980s, so another cull is well due, with Maxim and Arena looking favourites to go.
For other magazines it has been a long, slow decline – Women and Woman’s Own alone sold 5.5 million copies a week between them in 1959; now they barely muster 750,000. Today, the same is happening to Take a Break – the top-selling weekly – though it has stubbornly kept above the million mark so far.
The parallel between earlier decades and now is that of new technology – commercial television in 1954 followed by colour in the mid-1960s and the web, then social networking today. In 1960, magazines took a quarter of all advertising revenue but that has eroded to today’s 13%. The reason magazines have still thrived is that the overall advertising spending has risen so much and people have more money to spend buying them. If that carries on being the case, there is room for magazines and the web. It is when spending stagnates or falls for a lengthy time – a recession – that the pips really start to squeak.