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Response to the ABCs results: How are mag subscriptions and sales faring in the recession?

August 17th, 2009Posted by in Magazines

Subscription sales are up according to figures from online magazine retailer The Magazine Group, which runs sites for WH Smith, Books Direct and others; while last week the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reported only a slight drop in overall magazine sales.

But individual titles have seen circulations plummet this. Do subscriptions offer a way to avoid such a loss in sales? Here, we examine the results of the two reports:

Last week’s report from The Magazine Group suggests subscription sales are on the up after analysing figures for the more than 800 titles from 140 publishers it offers. The findings are derived from more than 100,000 subscriptions sold by the group – comparing purchasing patterns from the first half of 2008 with those for the same period this year.

Meanwhile overall ABC results for January to June 2009 suggested that magazine circulation for the UK consumer magazine market is only 1.9 per cent down on the previous period.

But individual titles fared worse in last weeks ABCs: results suggested that most glossy magazines have lost sales (one of the worst hit has been FHM down 16.2 per cent). There are exceptions – such Men’s Health (up 2.1 per cent YOY), which has taken FHM’s place as top selling title.

According to the Magazine Group’s report, women’s glossies are also suffering with the biggest fall in subscriptions amongst the retailer’s titles. The ABC results show that overall sales for women’s weeklies are down 4.6 per cent year-on-year.

In contrast celebrity weeklies are doing well in subscriptions for the Magazine Group, which claimed that magazines with competitive prices were faring the best.

The public’s concerns and interest in the recession are reflected in the ABC report by the general increase in sales for news and business magazines compared with other sectors –  MoneyWeek (which has subscribers making up 96 per cent of readers, according to MediaGuardian) was up 15.3 per cent year-on-year, while the Week gained 10.3 per cent in sales.

Up 0.6 per cent year-on-year, Private Eye remains the biggest-selling title in the news and finance business sector.

According to The Magazine Group, TV, computer games and music magazines are also doing well – it seems that more people are trying to save money by staying in.

Speaking at the FIPP congress earlier this year, leading magazine publishers suggested that personalisation may be a key factor for future magazine revenue streams. This sentiment is reflected in the Magazine Group’s report, as specialist magazines are shown to be doing well. The figures suggested an increase of more than 20 per cent in the sales of home improvement, craft and gardening titles.

But, it may simply come down to money-saving to explain the drop in glossies, but rise in such specialist titles. Economising Brits seem to be fighting the recession by trying to make their money go further. Not surprisingly, the ABC report suggests that specialist titles such as house renovation and housing have fallen in circulation, as have health and beauty magazines.

“What these figures (The Magazine Group) show is that magazine consumers are looking for value. Titles that offer ways to combat the credit crunch are thriving,” says Don Brown of The Magazine Group in a release.

“With sales falling on the newsstand many magazines are having a tough time, but with big name brands offering discounts and free gifts, savvy subscribers have great choice of bargains.”

The magazine Group claims to generally have a rise in their subscriptions, compared to many falls in the ABC analysis on individual title’s sales. Does this suggest that subscription deals might be able to save/maintain some magazines?

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