ABC SPECIAL: Customer titles continue to dominate (Customer)

LONDON - Customer magazines, led by Sky's portfolio of free magazines, continue to dominate the ABC rankings, with only three consumer titles making the top 10.

With BSkyB ratcheting up new subscribers, Sky Magazine has extended its lead in first position, with a 4.5% increase period on period.

Despite a 13.2% year-on-year drop in circulation, Publicis Blueprint's Asda Magazine has retained its place as the fourth-largest circulation title.

Observers believe this is related to advertisers cutting back their budgets and reducing circulation in light of the economic downturn. Somerfield Magazine has also been affected, falling 14.4% year on year.

Rebecca Grey, group advertising director at Redwood, says: "Managing costs in the customer magazine market has been particularly challenging this year. As well as the drop in ad revenue, paper has been significantly more expensive compared to 2008 and the price hike will probably continue late into next year."

That said, the stability of the market overall is testament to a medium that is paying dividends. Grey adds: "In a market where news-stand titles are suffering, advertisers and readers are still picking up and engaging with quality magazines. Our drops in revenue have been nothing like some of the other sectors."

Earlier this year, Next and Co-operative Group were among a number of companies that announced plans to launch their own branded titles, in a sign that the value of tailor-made content is recognised by firms even in a downturn.

Julia Hutchison, chief operating officer at the Association of Publishing Agencies, says customer publishing agencies and clients are diversifying into digital media, with 15% of the content provided by APA members now designed for online channels.

She adds: "None of us have been immune, but these latest figures show the customer publishing industry has remained buoyant, clearly highlighted by Mintel's prediction that the industry will break the £1bn mark by 2012."

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