ABC Special: Customer titles are riding high

Amid the swathe of circulation declines in the latest ABCs, the inexorable rise of customer publishing continues.

Sainsburys Fresh Ideas up 3.4% year on year
Sainsburys Fresh Ideas up 3.4% year on year

The top eight magazines in the country by circulation are customer titles, one more than six months ago, and there are now 12 customer magazines dominating the top 20.

If the growth rate continues, up 16% in the past six months, compared to a drop of 6.8% for actively purchased consumer magazines, the sector will account for a third of the UK’s top 100 titles by the end of the year.

Leading growth is ASOS.com, the magazine for the online fashion site, which saw circulation rise 20.7% year on year to 447,480. It will be interesting to see if the title can maintain the momentum following the decision to publish it in-house at the start of the year, ending a seven year relationship with Seven Squared.

Other annual growth has been more modest, but apparent nonetheless, including BA’s High Life which has seen circulation rise 7.2% and The National Trust Magazine, up 1.6%.

Julia Hutchison, chief operating officer at the Association of Publishing Agencies, attributes such performances to "strong and innovative" editorial content. 

"Engaging content will always be valued," she says. "Add targeted offers for readers and customer magazines become incredibly attractive in a climate where most consumers are getting less for their money."

Directing marketing spend towards publishing is not doing companies any harm either, with Emily Fovargue, head of publishing at Royal Mail, citing the findings of a recent company study that "more than three-quarters of UK brands considered most trustworthy by consumers publish a customer title, surely no coincidence".

Despite such confidence, magazines in the leading retail sector reported a mixed bag compared to last year, with Tesco and Somerfield’s titles down 17.2% and 4.4% respectively, Waitrose and Asda titles remained flat, while Sainsbury’s magazine posted a lift of 3.4%.

Mintel research commissioned by the APA now values the customer industry at £904 million, and this is set to balloon to £1.2 billion by 2012. The sector once derided as vanity publishing is unarguably big business.

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