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Behind the ABCs

  • Date:

    17 February 2022

Behind the ABCs

The latest ABC update has been eagerly anticipated as it covers the 12 months to December 2021 and offers the first market wide overview of the sector since the disruption of the pandemic.

Headline stories

At a topline level, the magazine sector shows promising signs of growth, with 54% of brands showing a year-on-year increase in their ABC (128/237).

And it isn’t just circulation that is seeing an upward trend. Over half of magazine titles (54%) increased the number of actively purchased copies year-on-year (113 out of the 209 who reported in both periods).

In February 2021, we highlighted that the subscription economy was in particularly good shape growing 13% year-on-year. This trend has continued with 84% of titles who shared their subs data, reporting growth. The combined increase across these titles was 9%.

The detail

In our recent work with MediaCom Harnessing Intentional Attention, we noted a number of trends that had come about as a result of the pandemic and the changes to our everyday lives as a result.

We have seen considerable digital acceleration, with much of our day-to-day activity moving online. There has been a noteable shift to more mindful pastimes, with people using the extra time at home to revaluate their priorities, finding new passions or nurturing existing ones.

Both of these trends are evidenced in the latest ABC data.

85% of titles reporting digital copies have shown gains and a combined increase for these brands is 21%.

In addition, there are sizeable increases in circulation across exactly the kinds of categories we would expect given our previous work. This release demonstrates that the effects of the pandemic on our lifestyles and priorities were not fleeting but lasted through 2021, a year with far fewer restrictions.

One category to really benefit from the increase in time at home was Food and Cooking. Brands were mostly up year-on-year with the likes of BBC Good Food (up 1%), Olive (up 3%), BBC Easy Cook (up 10%), and BBC Home Cooking Series (up 16%).

With people spending more time in their houses, Home interest brands also performed very well, with 57% of the brands in this sector showing growth. Importantly almost all of these titles have shown growth since 2019 levels, demonstrating a sustained trend in reading habits. Real Homes and Period Living led the growth in homes title with gains of 19% and 10% respectively. House Beautiful and Country Living saw more modest growth of 2% and 1%, but with sizeable circulations, this is still considerable.

In the same way that home interest titles tapped into demand to improve our indoor living spaces, gardening brands were on hand to offer advice and inspiration on how to improve our outside spaces. Almost all gardening titles showed substantial growth with levels between 3% and 36% year-on-year. Modern Gardens was up 36% and Garden Answers continued its growth increasing 15% year-on-year to name but two examples. This increased interest in Gardening titles also saw gains in actively purchased for all but one of the growth titles.

When we weren’t at home/work in 2021, it is likely we were on holiday somewhere in the UK as, despite relaxation of international travel rules, many opted to stay in the country for their breaks.

Again magazine media was there to provide expert advice. We see this in the ABCs, with Camping and Caravanning (8%) and Caravan and Motorhome Club magazine (5%) both showing solid year-on-year growth.

By the same token Camping, Walking and Climbing titles did very well. BBC Countryfile Magazine, Trail, and Country Walking have all seeing growth in their ABCs year-on-year (10%, 14% and 29% respectively). This reflects the trend of people opting to take breaks in the UK rather than abroad but also demonstrates a renewed appreciation for the outdoors after being confined to our homes.