PR experts: ABC results show mags in decline, but royals doing just fine

The latest magazine figures are out from the UK’s Audit Bureau of Circulation, and few PR experts in the country will be particularly surprised at the overall results. Put simply, glossy pages in actual print are continuing to decline, although the extent of the fall in some specific areas is rather jarring.
Just last week we asked what the real value of celebrity was in terms of product endorsements and brand ambassadors, and now it seems there’s a very similar question to be asked, only this time within the context of selling magazines. Do famous faces really shift more copies?
The answer, it would seem, very much depends on the type of famous face in question. The ABC report shows that celebrity and women’s weeklies have suffered huge losses in the last year, with Heat dropping by 17%, Look 35%, Closer 20%, and Grazia 13%. Social media and online have, understandably, been blamed for the decline, but many analysts are also pointing to a potential reduced interest in celebrities on the part of the public, in particular those who have made their name through reality TV shows.

Gifts that keep on giving

Perhaps more interestingly, the Royal Family are back in fashion, according to editors. Rosie Nixon, who sits in the editor-in-chief desk at Hello!, believes that blue bloods have seen their popularity surge thanks to the ‘new generation’ of regals, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry. Pippa Middleton’s May wedding to hedge fund manager James Matthews boosted sales of the title by 100,000 in one week, and that’s just one example.
“They appeal across age groups,” Nixon is quoted as saying in The Guardian. “I think the average reader age for Hello! is late-30s, but then we say we are read by everyone from 18 to 90. There is a big age span there and the royals transcend that age group, I think.”
Speaking of Pippa’s sister, Kate, who tied the knot with Prince William to become Duchess of Cambridge, Nixon said: “She was the normal middle-class girl who bagged a prince and it was such a fascinating story. She has made the royal family feel more accessible.”

Terminal decline

Ultimately, though, the good news offered by the royals doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme. Overall, when all titles are taken into account the Year on Year losses for magazines in the UK come in at 9%, which is hardly insignificant. And whilst some sectors are holding out better than others- news and current affairs, for example, has actually increased readership and sales volume, whilst special interest remains relatively buoyant- it’s impossible to deny that there are serious holes in the ship, with audiences pouring over social and digital in favour of print.
Although this isn’t really news- the same has happened every year since before Smoking Gun was even an agency-it does raise a very serious point, again; when will a viable solution materialise that ebbs the tide a little, or even reverses the trend? Or, perhaps more importantly, at what point will social and digital plug the financial gap they have created- will there be a moment when we can finally fund publications properly through online?

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