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Reasons to be cheerful: A sector defined by confidence, optimism, and opportunity

  • Date:

    20 February 2024

Reasons to be cheerful: A sector defined by confidence, optimism, and opportunity

PPA CEO, Sajeeda Merali shares highlights from the publishing sector and why she is so excited about the year ahead.

When I walk into a room of PPA members, the current vibe is one of both optimism and confidence. It’s a really exciting time to be working with publishers as they carve out their future strategies. 

Print remains important but doesn’t tell the full story 

Every publisher is taking a different and unique approach based on their brands, content and audiences. One size no longer fits all. Market conditions are unpredictable, and there are a variety of ways that publishers can be successful. 

The latest ABC Consumer Media Report reveals that in 2023 we collectively circulated 469 million digital and print magazines across 52 different market sectors published by 64 media owners[1]. Digital copies across the market increased by 19% year on year.[6]

Whilst impressive, it doesn’t tell the full story and our impact and influence extends much much wider.

Actively rebalancing across platforms

Ninety-six percent of our members are multi-platform, operating across five or more channels, with a presence across digital, print, apps, podcasts and audio, events and social. Format and platform choice is considered strategically, based on the purpose of connecting with the consumer.[2]

Take Immediate Media’s recent acquisition of Nutracheck, the UK’s leading subscription-based calorie and nutrient tracking app. This has grown audience reach by over 15% and now has over 400,000 paid subscribers. 

With publisher’s focus on digital commerce there are plenty of examples of combining journalistic expertise with the authenticity of strong brands. This powerful combination translates into direct sales, with Bauer noting their Gross Basket Value for commerce content activity across Black Friday in 2023 was up 52% YoY across all their brands.

Publishers’ ability to recalibrate and evolve their propositions based on consumer need is central to this. At the PPA we call this ‘active rebalancing’ – putting your customers front and centre of your business strategy, to remain relevant and profitable. 

Valuable and engaged communities 

We connect with over 39 million highly engaged consumers on a monthly basis – and digital users now account for 81% of our total reach.[3]

At our very core we still are super serving these communities on the things that really matter to them whatever the platform. This can be a business insight, someone’s passion or hobby, or the need for specific information or expertise. And we have unrivalled emotional connections with these audiences. Connections that mean they trust and engage with the content. They welcome the advertising, they research the products, and they buy what they see.

Publishers continue to find new and exciting ways to create stronger, deeper and even more valuable relationships with both new and existing customers. In 2023 Hearst launched ELLE COLLECTIVE, a new fashion and beauty membership programme which sold out ahead of schedule. New apps for Women’s Health and Men’s Health drove membership growth significantly, up 183% and 92% respectively.

And driving action is not just about sales. Campaigns harnessing the engagement of these communities can change legislation. Titles such as Grazia have spearheaded equal rights initiatives around pay and childcare to much success.

A winning formula: Trusted brands and quality content

The importance of quality and trusted journalism is more important than ever. Recent studies from both Edelman and Credos show a decline in confidence in advertisers and businesses, and trust levels at an all-time low.

There is also real concern around the validity of news and the less favourable side of AI use.

Magazine brands set the standards when it comes to trust and quality, providing true, vetted and relevant content. In a recent PPA Magnetic survey print magazines came top versus other media when it came to trust.[4] Advertisers benefit from associating their brand with high-quality content which drives positive changes in consumer behaviour.

This year we see the 100-year anniversary of both the Radio Times and Good Housekeeping Institute – brands that have stood the test of time, and remain as relevant today as they ever were. increased its audience reach by 25% last year[5], with The Good Housekeeping Institute the UK’s oldest trusted source for consumer product reviews. 

Subscriptions and events is where it’s happening 

A rise in the number of subscriptions, acts as a true indicator of the value of our products, with consumers willing to pay for content and experiences that serve their needs and feed their passions. As a result, publisher platforms associated with a consumer focus, that deliver quality content and experiences, show the strongest growth for PPA members.

Magazine subscriptions now take the lion’s share of the total sales mix, forming 32% of total circulation.[1] Digital subscriptions increased by 16% year on year[6] and newsstand/single sales are now 26%.[1]

According to the latest PPA Market Report, events account for 20% of publisher revenues[2] – allowing enthusiasts to interact with their favourite brand and each other. This provides an even deeper emotional connection for both the publisher and attendee.

Quality interactions with consumers who love and actively seek out brand interaction is what makes the sector a valuable channel for commercial partners looking to create meaningful connections to achieve specific marketing objectives.

Robust growth ahead

Future growth will continue to come from consumer-driven revenue streams. Our recent PPA Market Report also highlighted that publishers are predicting continued growth as they extend their community touchpoints across memberships, podcasts, newsletters, and digital subscriptions.

As the transition away from third party cookies becomes a reality, publishers are in a strong position to leverage their first party data for the benefit of commercial partners

And we can’t ignore AI. While it might be considered both an opportunity and a challenge,  continued experimentation is evident across the sector.  This will help publishers to understand the full benefits to their business. Helping them to improve efficiency and increase customer engagement.

Combine all of this with the forecast from AA/WARC which expects a return to growth in advertising for online magazine media (+2.3%) and there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful.[7]

I’m very much looking forward to what comes next.

PPA CEO, Sajeeda Merali

For comments from publisher CEOs click here

  1. ABC Consumer Media Report December 2023
  2. PPA Market Insight Sector Report 2023
  3. PAMCo H2 2023
  4. PPA Magnetic Magazine Media Survey December 2023 
  5. Ipsos iris December 2023 
  6. ABC Consumer Media Report December 2023 – titles reporting ABC in 2022 and 2023
  7. AA WARC Expenditure Report Q3 2023