By Alyson Fixter
Eight out of 10 of Britain’s biggest-circulation magazines are free customer titles in the latest ABC roundup, with Tesco Magazine going straight in at number two with its first ever ABC figure.
The biggest seller continues to be Sky The Magazine from John Brown Citrus, reaching nearly 6.9 million readers, followed by Tesco Magazine at close to 2.5 million, Asda Magazine at nearly 2.4 million, Prudential Magazine at 1.9 million and Boots Health & Beauty reaching nearly 1.7 million.
More and more customer and contract titles are posting ABC figures, both as advertising currency and as part of a drive to push home the message that the sector is as credible as the consumer titles.
Sun publisher News International, which recently launched women’s weekly Love It!, has applied for membership of the contract publishing body the Association of Publishing Agencies (APA), signalling that it too plans to get a slice of the action.
Julie Hutchinson, director of the APA, said: "For years there has been debate as to whether customer titles should be audited, however I can’t emphasise more the significance of the ABCs to the customer publishing industry.
"Not only do the ABCs offer credibility to media buyers and thirdparty advertisers, they also provide independent, audited proof of a title’s circulation.
"As Sainsbury’s: The Magazine’s appearance in the top 10 of actively purchased magazines suggests, the issue of whether customer magazines are valued whether they are free or paid for is obsolete.
"The issue for the industry should be — and always has been — all about reach and reader engagement."
Former Mirror investigative journalist Dawn Alford, now editor of Cedar’s Tesco Magazine, said: "These ABC results show the important role customer magazines play in the magazine market as a whole.
"When you consider all of the research conducted by customer magazines proving the effectiveness of the titles and measuring the appreciation of customers toward them, it comes as no surprise that more and more companies are looking at the opportunities customer magazines can offer.
"Tesco Magazine is not about pushing Tesco products but is seen as a ‘thank you’ to customers. That’s what makes it great to work on."
Overall, the customer publishing industry has grown by 244 per cent in the past 10 years, with the market valued at £385m.
Even Royal Mail has plans to publish a lifestyle-type customer magazine that will be available in its branches.
Leonora Corden, head of market development at Royal Mail, said: "Today’s ABCs reflect what we in the industry have long known — that customer magazines are as strong as their consumer counterparts.
"The idea that customer magazines are less creative, lower-quality versions of their consumer counterparts is simply not true."