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February 16, 2021updated 20 Feb 2023 10:51am

Magazine ABCs 2020: How the men’s, tech, entertainment and women’s sectors fared

By Charlotte Tobitt

Men’s, tech and entertainment magazines in the UK saw an average circulation decline of 9% in 2020, according to the latest ABC figures.

By comparison women’s magazines saw an average circulation decline of 8%, as did TV titles.

However most publishers celebrated subscriptions and digital growth offsetting much of the loss in newsstand sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK magazine sales overall fell by 6% year on year in 2020 according to Press Gazette analysis of the latest ABC release.

The two biggest paid-for magazines in the UK, excluding branded National Trust and supermarket titles, are Bauer’s TV Choice with a circulation of 1,041,826 which is down 5% year-on-year, and Future’s What’s On TV, down 10% to 689,427.

[Read more: Full breakdown of UK magazine circulations shows average 6% year-on-year drop]

Bauer, whose other biggest titles are Take A Break (down 11% to 365,869) and Yours (177,121), said one in five of its titles saw year-on-year growth in the second half of 2020 despite the extraordinary times.

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Celeb weekly Heat saw its circulation fall by more than a third (35%) to 70,504 but Bauer said the title instead achieved 86% growth year-on-year online.

Similarly Closer saw its ABC circulation fall by 32% to 103,781 but print subscriptions were up 40% year-on-year and digital was up 42%.

Chris Duncan, Bauer Media UK’s chief executive of UK publishing, said these ABC results “cover a period of extraordinary disruption” for both readers and retailers.

“Across the Bauer Media UK audited range to have one in five of our titles in year on year growth and the overall portfolio in only single digit decline is something we should be very proud of.

“We thank our readers for their extra efforts this year to get their hands on our titles despite the restrictions and hope we have played our part in keeping the nation entertained and inspired during this period. We look forward to a strong 2021 performance in all sectors as we get back to normal trading.”

[Read more about the news and current affairs magazine ABCs: The Week Junior thrives under lockdown]

Hearst UK’s biggest paid-for title, after the free magazine it produces for Asda, is Good Housekeeping which saw its circulation fall by only 2% across the whole year to 410,241.

Prima (207,766) also fell by only 3% year-on-year while Country Living grew by 2% to 169,114. However Cosmopolitan saw 14% decline to 167,654 across the whole of 2020.

Immediate Media, whose biggest title is the Radio Times which saw a 6% decline to 496,965, said it had 9% year-on-year growth across its whole portfolio in the second half of 2020 as people turned to their specialist interests during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Its total subscribers grew by 14% to more than 1m due to “changing consumer habits and a desire to secure regular access to valued content”.

Its highlights included growth of 38% at food magazine Olive, a 33% circulation increase at BBC Gardener’s World, and a 10% rise at BBC Good Food.

Immediate chief executive Tom Bureau said: “Our special interest brands, in these extraordinary times, have become more important than ever to our audiences, helping them to get the most out of their passions and hobbies, whether that be cooking, gardening, cycling or watching the latest streaming sensation.

“In the last year we have grown our paid and premium reach across all platforms, a testament to our commitment to consistently deliver world class content and create a platform for further growth.”

Future’s most-read magazine, Woman and Home, saw 17% decline to 209,017 for the whole year while Woman’s Weekly fell by 9% to 189,263.

However Future said its titles had overall seen “substantial digital growth”, an increase in subscriptions and a “resilient” newsstand performance considering the circumstances.

Chief content officer Angela O’Farrell said the results showed the “dramatic shift in wider consumer behaviour and shopping patterns over the last 12 months which Future was well placed to lean into”.

“As pandemic restrictions reduced opportunities for outdoor activities, audiences have increasingly turned to titles that help them make the most of their indoor spaces; be that through home improvement, cooking and decorating, or simply relaxing with engaging lifestyle content,” she added.

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