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October 9, 2017updated 13 Oct 2017 10:30am

Closure of UK’s tenth biggest selling mag Glamour is a huge blow to the power of print

By Dominic Ponsford

With 260,422 sales a month Glamour was the tenth biggest selling magazine in the UK as ranked by ABC.

So news that its monthly edition is to close at the end of the year is a huge blow to the power of print magazine publishing.

Glamour has fallen a long way since it burst on to the UK publishing scene in 2001, back in the days when publishing innovation was largely about changing the size of paper used.

The UK edition pioneered the handbag-sized format and debuted with an ABC of 451,486.

It peaked at 620,391 in 2004 and since then has been in steady decline.

When sales dropped 26 per cent year on year at the end of 2016, to 260,422 copies a month it was clear that drastic action was needed.

It was being murdered on the newsstands by Cosmopolitan, long-established rival in the women’s monthly fashion and lifestyle sector.

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In the second half of 2015 Cosmo slashed its cover price from £3.80 to £1 and boosted the number of free copies given away.

At £2 a copy, Glamour could not compete. As Hearst’s Cosmo grew from 260,000 to over 400,000 copies per month, Glamour’s sales slid.

At the start of this year, Conde Nast cut the cover price of Glamour to £1. Period on period there was a slight sales increase, up 15,000 copies to 275,536 – but it was evidently nothing like the boost the publisher was hoping for.

With print advertising under pressure across the board, the loss of £2.5m-plus a year in circulation revenue was clearly too much for the title to bear.

Glamour’s move to twice yearly print distribution signals an attempt to continue to cash in on the main seasonal fashion advertising.

In a press statement, Conde Nast said the “editorial and commercial departments will be fully integrated” – suggesting the future for the online brand will be staked largely on native advertising (or paid-for editorial).

This is a tacit admission of defeat to Facebook and the other social media brands in the battle for display advertising.

Glamour will instead focus on providing content for free to these platforms with the commercial message buried within it (albeit clearly labelled as sponsored, as required by the ASA).

While some will see the closure of Glamour as sounding another death knell for the print magazine industry, the truth is more complex.

Overall print magazines are dropping circulation by around 6 per cent year on year in the UK. That’s worrying, but given the growth in revenue from online channels not calamitous.

At the upper end of the fashion market, brands still seem devoted to print as a way of reproducing the sort of sumptuous photography that doesn’t work anywhere else.

Hence, last year the Sunday Times Style magazine and Vogue both published their biggest ever editions in the UK.

But when it comes to the popular end of fashion and beauty the writing appears to be on the wall for print – with social media now being the key forum for promotional activity.

With 5m claimed followers across various social media platforms Glamour clearly has plenty of brand left to lever commercially.

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