The slow death of the weekly magazine

Declining sales for general weekly magazines

Declining sales for general weekly magazines

The war years were a fantastic time for the photography-based general weekly magazines and their high sales continued into the start of the 1950s, as this chart from the Financial Times in 1959 shows (April 16, page 10). Just these four titles – Picture Post, Illustrated, Everybody’s and John Bull – had a combined sale of about 4.5 million copies a week. That is a staggering figure by today’s standards.

Television was gaining a foothold in Britain’s households and, as the chart shows, first Picture Post and then Illustrated folded. Everybody’s also was not long for the world, merging into John Bull in 1959. A year later, John Bull relaunched itself as Today, but that only delayed fate and it was subsumed by Weekend in 1965.

The BBC took away readers and from 1955 commercial television took away both readers and advertisers. Magazines still had a monopoly on colour advertising over newspapers and television, but then the Sunday Times launched its colour supplement in 1962 and colour TV appeared in 1967, with Britain becoming the first country in Europe to offer regular programming in colour – four hours a week on the BBC. Two years later, both the BBC and ITV were regularly broadcasting in colour and 12 million households owned a colour TV set by the early 1970s.

These TV and newspaper trends saw off other weeklies, such as Tit-Bits and Weekend in the 1980s. It’s been a similar story for women’s weeklies.  In 1959, market leader Woman was selling 3.2 million copies a week, alongside three other titles over the 1 million mark; today it’s less than a tenth of that at about 250,000. Of course, new titles have come along with market leader Take a Break was selling 1.2 million in 1990; today its ABC sale is half that figure.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016, V&A Publishing)

 

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One Response to “The slow death of the weekly magazine”

  1. Horatio Bottomley – the swindling John Bull | Magforum Says:

    […] and it was relaunched in 1960 as Today. In this format, it survived until 1964, but it was a slow death for all the popular weeklies and it was taken over by […]

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