Still in vogue: luxury magazines defy print market gloom

With 100-year-old Vogue and design and lifestyle bible Wallpaper producing their biggest-ever issues – and “handbag” size pioneer Glamour seeking to bulk up to a bigger, glossier edition – the luxury magazines appear to be defying the advertiser and reader exodus rapidly eroding the rest of the magazine market.

More than a million British consumers stopped buying print magazines, or gave up their subscription, in the year to the end of June. Titles such as Loaded, Zoo, Nuts, FHM, Company, InStyle and Reveal have closed or embarked on digital-only reimaginings, while the 64-year-old music bible NME has been forced to go free to find an audience as paying print fans dry up.

This is in contrast to the fortunes of the luxury magazine market, which appears resilient to the wider change in consumer reading habits in the digital age.

Hopes were initially high for digital tablet versions of magazines following the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010. However, that has given way to a more sober assessment: while digital edition circulation is up 50% year-on-year, to 585,000, most of this is driven by brands in the news and current affairs sectors, such as the Economist, The Week and Spectator.

Group M estimates that if this sector of magazines was stripped out, digital circulation actually fell by as much as 10% across all other titles it samples in the first half of the year.

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