The UK’s consumer magazines saw a circulation decline of 11% in 2022, according to the latest ABC data.
Combined average circulation globally fell to 24 million in 2022 across print and digital, compared to 26.8 million in 2021.
In just the UK and Irish markets, taking out wider global sales, the overall picture was slightly better with circulation down by 7% to 21.2 million.
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Most magazines report data once annually for the full calendar year, but for titles that report more regularly – for example every six months – we have taken their latest ABC report and made like-for-like comparisons with the same period in 2021.
Among actively purchased magazines – i.e. when free, membership and multiple copies are excluded – total global circulation was down 15% (13.4 million in 2022 compared to 15.3 million in 2021).
For the approximately 220 UK consumer magazine titles audited by ABC, 183 saw smaller global circulations in 2022 compared to 2021 and 31 print and digital titles grew.
Among the digital winners titles were the online versions of Kelsey Media’s consumer gadgets magazine Stuff (up 22% to reach an average digital circulation of 16,468) and Motor Sport (up 18% to 10,436).
Among the print winners meanwhile were Private Eye which saw UK/ROI sales up 5% to 238,322, Future-owned football magazine Four Four Two (up 6% to 28,043) and National Geographic (up 2% to 48,098).
At the other end, women’s fashion and lifestyle stalwart Elle UK saw one of the biggest falls with a drop of 27% to 72,369 in the UK/ROI. Fashion title Harper’s Bazaar also saw its circulation badly hit – down 25% to 65,407 in UK/ROI sales. Both are owned by Hearst UK.
Overall, global print circulation was down 14% falling to 20.9 million in 2022 compared to 24.3 million in 2021. Circulation of just actively purchased print copies was down by a similar proportion (15%), having fallen to 11.1 million last year.
Bauer’s TV Choice was the top selling print magazine with average sales of 972,869 per issue.
The Economist led the pack on global digital edition sales on one million – almost twice that of its print edition (561,605).
The ABC-audited online magazine market remains smaller than its print sector. Combined global digital circulation in 2022 was 3.1 million.
Titles can choose to audit their digital and print edition separately (as noted in the tables below) or provide ABC with a combined print and digital number. Where there is a separate digital ABC certificate the figures are not de-duped (meaning they include bundled subscriptions where readers have more than one format included in the price).
By sector, women’s weeklies were hard hit with no title gaining on its 2021 sales. Worst-hit was Hearst title Best which saw average UK/ROI sales down 27% year on year to 48,593, while Reach’s celebrity title New! was down 22% to 58,287.
Bauer’s Take a Break was the UK’s best-selling women’s weekly magazine, with 300,390 copies circulated per issue, although it still recorded a year-on-year fall in circulation (down 8%).
Unlike 2021, where some sectors such as gardening were less hard-hit in the UK, sectors generally fared badly across the board in 2022.
Overall, fewer titles submitted data to ABC in 2022 – 240 globally, compared to 261 in 2021. Print and digital certificates are counted separately here where relevant.
There were eight titles that reported for the first time in 2022. Among the new launches was Immediate Media’s new children’s magazine Lego Minecraft which achieved an average circulation of 46,083 in its first year.
Bauer Media, publisher of titles including TV Choice, Take A Break and Empire, said it was the biggest-selling magazine publisher circulating more than 111 million copies in 2022, almost a third of audited magazines sold in the UK during 2022.
Chris Duncan, Bauer Media’s chief executive of UK publishing, said: “These set of results demonstrate the robust performance of our portfolio of brands despite the challenging market conditions that our industry faced in 2022. We’ve seen newsstand sales perform solidly in most areas and this has given us a foundation to strengthen our digital and international offerings.
“We will continue to invest in our content as well as our editorial and membership platforms in 2023 and allow the brilliant talent across our business to shine. We also look forward to working collaboratively with our partners and advertisers to deliver consistent results for their businesses through these challenging times. Finally, thanks as ever to the millions of readers who made these results possible.”
Radio Times, BBC Gardeners’ World and BBC Good Food publisher Immediate Media said it had a combined ABC-audited print and digital circulation of 2.1 million, with its print circulation down 10% year-on-year to two million and its digital circulation, where audited, up 9% to 178,803.
It said it was the leading magazine publisher for subscriptions, with 997,948 across print and digital, although this was down 9% year-on-year.
Chief revenue officer Duncan Tickell said: “Despite the difficult economic climate, Immediate’s trusted, quality brands continue to entertain and engage large audiences and maintain their market leading positions whilst growing reach across more platforms than ever before.
“Our subscriptions business continues to perform strongly across print and digital editions, complemented by a fast growing, premium apps business in our food, gardening and history portfolios.”
UK magazine circulation 2022: Sector by sector round-up
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