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ABCs: Free market continues to prosper as focus turns to branding

The latest ABC results prove the success of the free market and publishers with specialist content. In a continued trend, the free market remains buoyant posting a PoP increase, little wonder then that other publishing groups are also keen to enter this space.

We’ve seen the launch of TV Mag, Dennis announce plans to launch a Men’s title in the latter part of the year and the iconic NME moving to this model after 63 years as a paid-for.

It’s possible we may see others follow the same route.

Outside of the frees, the only sector to enjoy increases in its entirety was the News and Business Sector – again showing the continued demand for long-form quality content that cannot be accessed elsewhere.

Many individual titles showed growth and in the main these came from the more specialised titles; for fashion, it was Elle and Instyle, for wellbeing it was Women’s Health and Forever Sports.

Other markets suffered significantly with the Celebrity Weeklies and Home Interest particularly feeling the pinch from their digital competition – with the Mail Online churning out vast volumes of celebrity content at pace and Pinterest and Instagram offering a free inspirational alternative.

Beyond the numbers

Ultimately, magazine ABC numbers represent one element of the brand, but we mustn’t lose sight of their absolute reach and why we use the channel in the first instance.

The figures still accurately reflect the parent print brands that anchor the different brand extensions that are on offer. They are valuable, not least as the vital reference for buyers and sellers in considering price. All that said, it is crucial that the industry also looks beyond these numbers.

Firstly, ABC figures alone are not reflective of a brand’s true scale.  Despite the ability to audit other brand extensions, it has yet to be really embraced by publishers and many enhanced digital editions are still excluded from the figures as they rarely fit the current matching criteria. Furthermore, the growing number of touchpoints that will come from the introduction of new offerings such as Facebook Instants and Google News are likely to expand reach even further.

Crucially though, while mass scale can be delivered through magazines, this has rarely been the key reason for their use. Their true power continues to lie in their ability to engage and influence.

Katie Hartley, Group Account Director – Publishing, Vizeum