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Glossies dominate the ABCs

All the surprises in the latest set of ABC figures have been in the women's sector. Claire Billings takes a closer look

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The ABCs for the first half of 2001, released on Thursday, have been dominated by the rise and rise of the celebrity weekly glossies -- namely OK!, Hello! and Heat.

While the media attention was focused on the high-profile battle between Hello and OK!, the real success in the sector was Heat, which jumped 147.5% to 235,450.

This is not to knock Hello!'s performance, as it was up an impressive 83.7% to 842,723, knocking rival OK! with 651,513 off the top spot. However, this needs to be put into context.

Hello's figures were inflated by a £3m sampling campaign, which saw 416,866 sample copies distributed via its partnerships with the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and with Virgin Atlantic. The title's full-price newsstand and subscriptions total was 366,184.

Sally Cartwright, marketing director at Hello!, said, "While we are delighted that the campaign has had such excellent results, our promotional work will not continue on this scale and it is therefore unlikely that our ABC figures will bring in this level of circulation next time."

She added that she is quite happy that the figures resulting from the sampling campaign be included in the ABCs, but warned that publishers must be "open and above board about where the figures come from". She also highlighted the importance for media agencies to "read the details" to check such information.

The women's fashion and lifestyle magazines also had a surprise in store, mainly the phenomenal success of Glamour, which recorded a debut circulation of 451,486. As a new market entrant, scoring such a high first-time ABC was bound to shake the market up, and it has.

Sarah Attwood, group head of press at CIA, said, "The women's market has been shaken by the launch of Glamour and In Style. I wouldn't be surprised to see some closures in the women's monthly magazine market."

Company and Marie Claire appeared to suffer most from the handbag-sized monthly's success.

Marie Claire's problems were compounded this time round because its former editor Liz Hall had failed to stem falling sales. The industry, however, appears to have more confidence now a new editor, Marie O'Riordan, is in place.

Claudine Collins, director of press at MediaCom, said, "Marie Claire suffered because of its former editor. Marie O'Riordan [formerly of Elle] should turn the magazine's fortunes around."

O'Riordan's first move was to poach two of her former Emap colleagues -- Kath Brown and Stuart Selner -- to help her with the task.

Tim Brooks, managing director of Marie Claire publisher IPC SouthBank, said, "Our strategy has been to invest in the very best editor and acquire a top editorial talent to work with her in delivering her vision for the magazine's future in absolutely meeting its readers' thirst for voyeurism, sex and scandal, married to style, humour and justice."

Although these ABC's produced nothing completely unexpected, they will perhaps make publishers more aware how fickle the consumer magazine market is.

Five years ago, the market was fairly safe, with stalwarts such as Marie Claire and Loaded consistently appearing in the top five. Now, however, consumers are constantly looking for something new and more convenient.

What Glamour's entry into the women's monthly arena has proven is how such a simple idea can take advantage of a weakening, overcrowded market where publishers have become complacent about their titles as they concentrate on the problem of how to combat the softening advertising market.

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