Magazine circulations down. Can digital media save the day?

Would you want to work in magazines right now?
In a matter of months a new batch of journalism undergraduate students will descend on the job market.  Many will no doubt be looking for careers within the magazine sector, as they scan the pages of Media Guardian. But the industry has changing and, as we all know, it’s no longer about text on a printed page. The future is multi-platform and multi-media.

The gloom and doom of the ABCs
The recent ABC circulation figures show an industry in stagnation. The impact in the youth magazine market is particularly severe. And the bad news is that it is these types of magazines where our students often aspire to work.

A few examples (data up to Dec 2007): Maxim (down a massive -40%), Loaded (-29%), More (-26%), FHM (-15%), NME (-12%), Heat (-11%), Zoo and Nuts (-12% and – 8% respectively).

Many other sectors are simply stagnating as Net usage eats into all our time. Legendary women’s  interest magazine Cosmo had a rise of a rather pathetic
1%. Glamour was down -6%.

Examples of magazines that have broken the
trend are few-and-far between. Inexplicably Top of the Pops magazine managed an increase of 19%. Aimed at teen girls, TOTP has NO website (it’s just a holding page) and has no promotion on the BBC1.

But this is a real problem. In January, we saw the sad demise of an entire publishing empire – Emap. The company consistently failed to support strong Internet initiatives and its honest and hard working staff paid a painful price.

Almost all Emap former  titles suffered circulation losses. Bauer Consumer Media has closed former Emap titles First (no surprise) and the long-established New Woman (recently re-branded NW).

Things are even starting to look bleak in B2B-land.  Reed Elsevier, AKA the largest B2B publisher IN THE WORLD, is talking about selling RBI.

The future is multimedia and probably ‘free’
But despite appearances, magazine publishing isn’t totally screwed. These days publishers talk about magazine ‘brands’ and ‘multimedia portfolios’ rather than standalone magazine ‘titles’. This suggests that publishers are getting their acts together when it comes to investing in convergent technology.

If only we can find a truly accurate method of counting ‘brand exposure’ (one which doesn’t sound like fraud). We need a figure that takes into account website unique users, podcast downloads and digital radio listening hours.

The cynics would say that people download anything on the web,  so long as it’s FREE. Our students are pretty astute. They ascribe value to paying £2.80 for New Woman or £3.20 for their copy of Loaded. The idea also still lingers that online plays second fiddle to print.

The winners
So here is a quick (and totally subjective) review of how a couple of magazine publishers are adapting to the multimedia world and a few ones to watch. I’m keen to find more examples of good interactive content from the likes of Hatchette, Bauer, BBC and Conde.

Small print:
Print figures: ABC Print figures based up to Dec 2007 and may be rounded up or down.
[Websites: ABCe figures. Unique visitors per month. These are latest figures I could track down. All figures should be treated as approximates as the months do vary when data was taken]

(78,463) & Bizarre (50,000) struggling. The Week doing well.
Paper/Website converged:

All magazine brands have websites. (719,394 unique users) with its photo galleries and behind-the-scenes video is performing well. Bizarre uses a similar template, but has less users (220,814 unique).
Innovative stuff:
The big success has got to be Monkey Magazine an internet-only interactive lads mag with 271,667 users. It is a good example of integrated advertising. It uses Ceros technology, which ‘pushes’ content at the viewer. Internet-only politics magazine First Post looks brilliant and sits well next to The Week

did well in a struggling men’s interest sector (up 14%). Cosmo (up, but just 1%)
Paper/Interactive converged:
website currently under-construction (boo!). Cosmo has a few blogs, but fails to offer anything remotely interactive. Men’s Health magazine to launch TV channel?
Innovative stuff:

Despite a disaster with Jellyfish (a teen girl magazine which employed the same push technology as Monkey), Hearst is investing heavily in and other female websites. Aimed at 31 year-old females with a salary of £40,0000, Handbag claims to be the most visited women’s lifestyle site in the UK (1,452,290 unique users) and is currently developing applications for Facebook.


Will the NME hang up its muddy pair of Doc Martins? Say it ain’t so.
Paper/Interactive converged: (1,824,038) is a truly multimedia interactive experience with loads of users. Nuts (631,467) has plenty of user-generated content but Maxim is better online. is a weak offering and struggles with just 308,442 unique visitors. Most (or all) of IPC mags have associated websites, but the quality is variable.
Innovative stuff
IPC has been slow to create standalone brands. The paper magazine may be in trouble, but NME TV  will be hitting Sky soon. Also has Nuts TV on Freeview. Web User magazine has launched a channel on YouTube.


Total Film (85,000) is one of Future’s biggest magazine brands. Internet technology magazine .Net makes a big gain (although it only shifts a modest 18,000 a month). Classic Rock is up (+7%) and has overtaken NME. Future has struggled outside its main sectors of technology and games, so the success of Classic Rock and Total Film are important victories.
Paper/Interactive converged:

Future’s focus on technology meant that it took interactive media seriously back in the mid-90s. The website of gadget/reviews magazine T3 is doing well at 2,517,25. Kerrang podcast.
Innovative Stuff:
Non-Magazine brand website, Gamesradar, pulls in impressive figures (3,257,408) despite relatively little marketing. Experiments with digital distribution of magazines didn’t come to much.

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2 Responses to Magazine circulations down. Can digital media save the day?

  1. John smith April 16, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    Excellent post, digitization made huge difference in publishing industry. As readers looking for the e-editions of publications, publishers are digitizing their publications and presenting through new technology mediums. Some publishers are using the services like to distribute their publications through new technology mediums. Publishers are generating more revenue by adopting the online e-publishing technologies.

  2. Steve April 17, 2008 at 10:01 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by.
    As someone that teaches students (mostly 18-21) we’re really seeing a generation coming through that are happy reading on-screen as on paper.