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August 12, 2021updated 20 Feb 2023 10:50am

Magazine ABCs: Gardening, cooking and children’s titles see biggest growth

By Charlotte Tobitt

Cooking, gardening and children’s learning magazines continued to be among the biggest circulation winners from the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2021, when the UK was in lockdown.

The biggest annual growth among adult magazines was at Garden Answers, which saw its average circulation grow by 38% to 70,391 in January to June, and BBC Gardeners’ World, which grew by 36% to 301,026 copies over the same period and remains the UK’s biggest gardening magazine.

The growth trend for gardening magazines was particularly apparent for subscriptions. Immediate Media’s BBC Gardeners’ World title grew subscriptions by 53% year-on-year to 219,543, while newsstand sales stayed steady.

Scroll down to see full magazine ABC figures for January to June 2021

At Bauer’s monthly Garden Answers, subscriptions grew by 62% to 55,171 over the six-month period. Newsstand sales were down 10% to 15,102.

Meanwhile at sister weekly title Garden News total circulation was up by 15% to 43,507. This included subscription growth of 32% to 19,685 and newsstand sales up 3% to 23,519.

[Read more: Radio Times and Gardeners’ World editors on how pandemic made mags essential again]

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Chris Kerwin, Immediate group managing director, said: “For the market leading gardening magazine BBC Gardeners’ World to have grown at 36% year-on-year to again reach a circulation of over 300,000 copies is extraordinary and testament to all the hard work of the team throughout the pandemic.

“The May issue remains one of the most important moments every year on the magazine newsstand and our subscriptions growth has been stellar. Add to that the digital growth we’ve seen in the same period shows that BBC Gardeners’ World really is a brand that is firing on all cylinders.”

Cooking magazines

Food titles are also among the specialist titles doing well, with Immediate’s Olive and BBC Good Food growing by 24% and 23% respectively.

BBC Good Food commercial director Simon Carrington said: “We’ve listened to our audience and adapted the magazine to suit the changing needs of the reader and delighted that sales have grown accordingly.”

He added that Olive was relaunched in January to have “an elegant look with a real focus on everyday food and lifestyle content”.

“The fact that our ABC has grown period-on-period as well as year-on-year just shows how well received the changes have been received by existing and new readers,” he said.

Immediate’s BBC Home Cooking Series magazine also grew by 15% to 21,489 from January to June.

Children’s titles

The biggest ABC circulation growth was at Fun to Learn – Friends, which was up by 44% to 51,618. Sister title Fun to Learn – Peppa Pig grew by 29% to 55,709.

For older children, Dennis title The Week Junior continued its strong upwards trend, growing by 18% to 100,916.

[Read more: How children’s news magazines have thrived during pandemic as ‘antidote to screen time’]

Its sister title The Week Junior Science and Nature, which launched in 2018, posted its first ABC figure of 30,057.

The Week Junior editorial director Anna Bassi said: “We strive to provide children with magazines that they genuinely love to read, and seeing strong results like this shows that the hard work of our talented editorial team is paying off.”

News and current affairs magazines

Adult sister title The Week saw its print circulation fall by 3% to 132,143 and its digital circulation down by 6% to 28,843.

The Economist conversely grew its digital publication by almost a third to 964,518 although its print circulation fell by a quarter to 693,255.

Private Eye grew sales by 3% to 237,338. Within this subscriptions grew by 11% to 174,927 while newsstand sales fell by 16% to 60,984.

The Spectator is no longer audited bi-annually by ABC but shared its own figures on Thursday. It said sales were up 27% to reach 105,850, the highest in its 193-year history. Even without digital, print is at an all-time high of 77,675 sales, it said.

Women’s and lifestyle titles

The Evening Standard’s ES Magazine, which is entirely distributed for free in London, dropped its distribution by 42% to 180,101.

Of mostly paid-for titles, the biggest fall in circulation was at Slimming World Magazine, down by 34% to 287,208. Bauer’s Closer fell by a fifth to 97,424.

Bauer also reported declines at other women’s titles such as Yours, down by 7% to 175,500, Bella, also down by 7% to 127,781, and Heat, down by 11% to 70,010.

However the fortnightly Grazia was up by 7% to 86,413

Bauer said an uplift in its subscriptions and digital circulations reflected trends seen across the industry since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chris Duncan, Bauer’s chief executive of UK publishing, said: “We’re pleased to see a strong competitive performance and a continued upward trend in subscriptions and in digital circulation.

“This reflects not only the consumer trends accelerated by the pandemic but the work we’ve undertaken to bring our long-term strategy to life and our continued investment in editorial excellence.”

[Read more: Full 2020 magazine circulation breakdown shows average 6% year-on-year drop]

Most magazines are audited by ABC each full year, so the latest list features fewer publications than the bigger round-up each February.

Year-on-year % change figures were not available for some publications if they chose to report differently in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Magazine circulations for the six months to the end of June 2021 via ABC:
Publication Owner ABC Total (avg per issue) Year-on-year % change Free copies
Tesco Magazine Cedar Comms Limited 1,941,887 0% 1,941,887
TV Choice Bauer Media 1,035,403 0%
The Economist – Digital Publication The Economist Newspaper Ltd 964,518 30%
The Economist – Print publication The Economist Newspaper Ltd 693,255 -24%
Waitrose & Partners Food John Brown 678,737 3% 678,737
Radio Times Immediate Media Company 461,164 -2%
Stylist The Stylist Group Ltd 403,604 0% 397,035
Take a Break Bauer Media 337,688 -12%
Time Out Time Out Magazine Ltd 310,450 0% 310,450
BBC Gardeners’ World Immediate Media Company 301,026 36%
Slimming World Magazine Miles-Bramwell Executive Services Ltd 287,208 -34% 52,239
Saga Magazine Saga Publishing Ltd 242,944 10% 36,139
Private Eye Pressdram Ltd 237,338 3%
BBC Good Food Immediate Media Company 194,471 23%
ES Magazine Evening Standard Limited 180,101 -42% 180,101
Ocadolife Magazine Sunday 177,618 177,618
Yours Bauer Media 175,500 -7% 132
Take a Break Monthly Bauer Media 159,859 -9%
The People’s Friend DC Thomson Media 147,324
That’s Life Bauer Media 141,933 -13%
The Week – Print Dennis Publishing Limited 132,143 -3% 4,554
Bella Bauer Media 127,781 -7% 1,923
Sainsbury’s Magazine Seven C3 102,822 15,437
National Geographic Magazine National Geographic Partners 102,503 5% 359
The Week Junior Dennis Publishing Limited 100,916 18% 5,861
Closer Bauer Media 97,424 -19% 6,217
Grazia Bauer Media 86,413 7% 13,375
Total TV Guide Bauer Media 78,732 -6%
My Weekly DC Thomson Media 71,949 2,279
Garden Answers Bauer Media 70,391 38% 118
Heat Bauer Media 70,010 -11% 7,265
Peppa Pig Bag-o-Fun Redan Publishing Ltd 68,980 17%
Love It! ACH Publishing 62,187 -9%
Fun to Learn – Peppa Pig Redan Publishing Ltd 55,709 29%
The Beano DC Thomson Media 54,800 900
delicious Eye to Eye Media Ltd 52,556 0%
Fun to Learn – Friends Redan Publishing Ltd 51,618 44%
The Oldie Oldie Publications Ltd 49,181 4% 2
Sparkle World Redan Publishing Ltd 47,008 24%
Garden News Bauer Media 43,507 15% 303
Olive Immediate Media Company 42,325 24%
The Week Junior Science and Nature Dennis Publishing Limited 30,057 702
Fun to Learn – Favourites Redan Publishing Ltd 29,520 7%
MoneyWeek – Print Dennis Publishing Limited 29,045 2% 1,912
The Week – Digital Dennis Publishing Limited 28,843 -6%
MoneyWeek – Digital Dennis Publishing Limited 25,833
BBC Easy Cook Immediate Media Company 25,100 4%
BBC Home Cooking Series Immediate Media Company 21,489 15%

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