This report on UK consumer magazines charts the ongoing pressures on the sector: circulation of paid titles in H1 2011 of 445m copies was down 5% year-on-year, and down more than 20% in relation to the 562m copies sold in H1 2006. When the closure of Sky's titles is factored in, the year-on-year decline of both free and paid copies is 15%
A worrying decline in demand has taken place amongst the core magazine audience of women, whose frequency of purchase dropped in the recession and has not recovered with the squeeze on household budgets. Similarly, display advertising commitments to the magazine sector lost almost 25% of their value in the recession with no sign of subsequent recovery
Meanwhile, paid-for men’s magazines continue to crash, with free titles Shortlist and Sport adding further pressure on the paid weeklies and some monthlies. Amongst other genres, circulation of top tier ‘must have’ titles has been more resilient than second tier titles, and we suspect top tier titles are gaining disproportionate share of display advertising in the current difficult economic environment. Second tier titles are also likely to be the casualty of supermarket expansion via metro stores, which trim the magazines on offer to the top selling ones. Thus, while we consider the magazine format remains loved by readers, the pressure on publishers to downsize and consolidate portfolios will remain a feature of sector trends. Given the vast range of titles and publishers’ portfolios, we expect to see both winners and losers emerge. A second report, UK consumer magazines: the digital dimension [2011-099], focused on publishers' strategic and digital strategies, is forthcoming.