How much real life can readers take?

By Colin Crummy

German publishing rivals Bauer and Burda are squaring up for another year of hostilities over the UK’s real-life sector, amid speculation that the market cannot sustain the current number of titles.

The combined real-life and "classic"

weeklies sector put on about 500,000 readers in the January to December period, thanks to the launch of IPC’s Pick Me Up and Burda’s Full House — but the flipside has been reader losses for every other title in the market.

Now, with NatMags and News International launching younger-targeted titles Real People and Love It!, respectively, since December, the market has become still more crowded.

German publisher Burda, which entered the UK market last year with Full House, posted its first ABC of 235,787. The figure is well above industry expectations but unlikely to trouble rival Bauer, whose market leader, Take a Break, continued to dominate with 1,155,886 copies sold per week, down 5.5 per cent year on year.

After a turbulent year for Full House — which has slashed its cover price, been delisted by Tesco and lost veteran publisher Simon Hesling — UK advertising director Annabel Wetton said the magazine would be back in the supermarket chain on 23 February.

She added: "Anyone who is launching into a huge market and isn’t particularly well known in the UK is going to have a tough time. We have fought all the battles down the line, we have an ABC and national distribution and have launched a second title, so all is very positive in the Burda camp currently."

Bauer publishing director David Goodchild said the market growth was due to duplicate purchases. "It’s very difficult to grow circulation in an environment where four or five new titles have launched," he added.

"If you look at the Full House figures, it’s tough. None of us are into vanity publishing and there’s a critical mass you need to achieve to break even.

"Effectively with four new kids on the block, it’ll be tough for them and easier for the established brands. Whether people will pull out I don’t know."

Second in the market Chat was down 5.3 per cent, selling 602,308 copies a week, but editor Gilly Sinclair said she was "very bullish" about the next six months.

"I’m going after the readers who like really good true-life stories, and my suspicion is that these will come from Bauer and maybe newspapers," she added.

Asked about the competition from Burda she said: "I’m not dismissive of anything selling over 200,000, but we have no plans to lose sleep over Full House just yet."

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