Celebrity magazines boom as the bottom falls out of lad market

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The Independent Online

The public's "insatiable" appetite for celebrity has prompted huge increases in circulation for OK! magazine, which has overtaken the grande dame of deferential chat, Hello!, for the first time.

The public's "insatiable" appetite for celebrity has prompted huge increases in circulation for OK! magazine, which has overtaken the grande dame of deferential chat, Hello!, for the first time.

OK!, published by Northern and Shell, recorded a 37.7 per cent yearly increase in sales, taking its distribution to 552,000 copies, compared with Hello!'s 495,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Much of the increase can be ascribed to its coverage of Victoria and David Beckham, whose high-profile wedding and subsequent family life have been dissected in numerous editions of the magazine.

Hello! magazine, edited by Maggie Koumi, suffered a year-on-year drop in circulation of3 per cent. But senior magazine sources suggest it may recover as the public's obsession with the Beckhams wanes. "How many times can you read about Posh and Becks in love? It's a one-trick pony," a source said.

The print success of OK!, edited by Martin Townsend, has no doubt been boosted by the launch of OK!TV, a weekly televisual version of the magazine, featuring interviews of celebrities, conducted by celebrities, often welcoming viewers into their own homes.

But Hello! is also having to contend with Now magazine, which has also elbowed its way into the party, focusing on "celebrity style" and notching up a 12.5 per cent increase in circulation over the same period, to 396,300. Chat magazine, whose gossip is perhaps more Hollyoaks than Hollywood, also recorded an increase.

Celebrity gossip is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the magazine world, with some 75 million copies being sold every year, and sales up 14 per cent on the same period last year.

"I can't see the celebrity market peaking at the moment," said Linda Lancaster-Gaye, managing director of IPC Connect, publisher of Now. "There is an insatiable appetite for celebrity, visible across all elements of the media, so I think it will change and develop - but it will keep growing."

In the "glossy" women's magazine market, Marie Claire's sales have overtaken those of Cosmopolitan for the first time. It sold some 422,000 copies to Cosmopolitan's 410,000, with Cosmopolitan showing a small year-on-year drop. Company suffered a more serious fall of some 16 per cent.

But it is the "lad mags" sector that has really suffered, with the much-imitated Loaded showing a year-on-year fall in circulation of nearly 19 per cent. Sky magazine and Arena showed declines of 24 and 23 per cent respectively, while FHM and Esquire suffered lesser falls of 6 and 7 per cent. Only GQ showed a significant increase in the same period.

Publishers of men's magazines, which have been the subject of vigorous debate, were bullish about their future. "Five years ago there was explosive growth of 1,000 per cent in this sector. It was inevitable that there was going to be a peak and a correction and it happened to Loaded," said Andy McDuff, managing director of IPC Music and Sport, which publishes Loaded.

He said the magazine had been "revamped" and had "recovered some of its old spirit". IPC is launching it through other media as a "superbrand".

But many industry insiders believe that male readers are bored with "crisps, peanuts and tits all over the place".

Dylan Jones, editor of Condé Nast's GQ, said the new figures vindicated his magazine's determination to move upmarket. "I think it indicates that men who were buying those magazines are interested in purchasing something a little more sophisticated," he said.

"Those people grow up and what are they going to be reading when they stop buying those magazines? Hopefully we've addressed a section of the market that wasn't being catered for."

Film magazines showed significant rises, gardening magazines rose by more than 7 per cent and the pre-school market increased by 14 per cent.

Sarah Miller, editor of Condé Nast Traveller, which grew by 5.7 per cent, said that there was an increasing desire among consumers for "the specialist and the person who can really tell it to you like no one else. It's to do with discernment".

The magazine industry as a whole is currently having something of a boom period, says the Periodical Publishers' Association.

New magazines are experiencing "prolific growth", and circulations are up, year on year, in 70 per cent of the 97 magazine sectors.

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