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June 17, 2021updated 17 Nov 2022 6:31am

UK magazine industry charted: Biggest publishers and changing marketing share

By Aisha Majid

Despite a number of high profile takeovers and buyouts, the ownership of the UK magazine industry remains more diverse than newspapers, according to new analysis of the biggest magazine publishers in the UK.

When it comes to consumer magazines, the leading companies – Bauer Media, Immediate Media Company and Future Plc – controlled an estimated 37% of circulation in 2020.

This is based on an analysis of the total annual number of magazine copies circulated by each publisher, according to data reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). (To reach a figure for each publisher we took the average circulation per issue per title and multiplied this by number of copies published each year for each title).  In some cases, magazine circulation figures now also include digital editions as well as print copies.

In 2010, the three leading publishers, TI Media, Bauer and the BBC accounted for 42% of all copies circulated - only slightly more than the 41% accounted for by the three leading publishers in 2000.

In contrast, research by Press Gazette last year found that when it comes to newspapers the top three companies controlled an estimated 80% of national print circulation - an increase in ownership concentration since 2015.

Biggest B2B publishers in the UK

Looking at the business-to-business (B2B) magazine publishing sector, ownership is more diverse. The single-biggest company according to reports to ABC is Mark Allen, which publishes a number of B2B titles in 17 sectors including aviation and healthcare. Mark Allen accounted for 12% of B2B magazine circulation in 2020 based on the combined total of companies in the group among which are MA Business Ltd and MA Agriculture Ltd. A similar proportion of circulation was attributable to Reed Business Information, the biggest reporting publisher in 2000.

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Although some magazine publishers have been bought out by investors such as Dennis Publishing, which in 2018 was acquired by British private equity firm Exponent, many of the biggest names in magazine publishing are family-owned.

For example, the Bauer and Hearst families together account for an estimated 33% of circulation. The Burda family, owner of holding company Hubert Burda, also account for a significant share of circulations. The single-biggest Hubert Burda-owned company reporting to ABC, Immediate, controlled an estimated 11% of consumer magazine circulation last year.

The top publishers are responsible for a number of household names.

Bauer’s biggest titles in 2020 for example included TV Choice (average monthly circulation of 1.04 million), Take a Break (380,000) and Yours (180,000).

Future’s biggest sellers in the consumer market include What's on TV (690,000), Woman & Home (250,000) and Woman's Weekly (210,000).

Hearst's most popular household names include ASDA Magazine (1.83 million), Good Housekeeping (420,000) and Prima (210,000).

Immediate’s leading titles include Radio Times (480,000, English Heritage Members Magazine (450,000) and BBC Gardeners' World (220,000).

As reported by Press Gazette earlier this year, Immediate’s portfolio grew its overall ABC print circulation by 9% year-on-year in the second half of 2020 with subscriptions driving the majority of sales.

When it comes to leading publishers by number of titles, Immediate Media Company is out ahead  with 51 consumer print titles in 2020.

British publisher Future however, stands out for having almost doubled its number of publications from 17 to 30 between 2019 and 2020, driven by an ambiguous growth strategy.

Last year the company completed its £140m takeover of TI Media, with brands including Country Life, Wallpaper* and Cycling Weekly, while this spring Future announced it had acquired women’s brand Marie Claire US. They are among the latest in a series of high-profile acquisitions the company has embarked on in the last several years.

The company’s expansion ambitions are also reflected in its financial results. Although comparable revenue data was only available for a handful of publishers, Future Plc’s revenue quadrupled between 2016 and 2019 to reach £221.5 million (Its 2020 revenue was even higher at £339.6 million).

In contrast, in the five years to 2019, competitor Haymarket saw its revenues shrink 12% to £161.6 million, while the income of Dennis Publishing in 2019 was £31.4 million - just over a third of 2016’s figure.

Other competitors have similarly faced difficulties as print sales and advertising have declined among them Hearst and Conde Nast, which recently were forced to cut costs and make redundancies.

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