Trendspotting #24

Men own up to behaving badly

The word in the well-dressed world of women's glossy magazines is that Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, after years of growing to sales of around 450,000 and hovering there, will fall back in the next round of Audit Bureau of Circulation figures. What makes this doubly interesting is that this coincides with reports that FHM, the super-soaraway lads' magazine, is printing more than 600,000 copies a month to meet rising demand. Loaded - the original lads' mag - is printing 500,000-plus copies an issue. These are double the sales the two magazines achieved in the last six-month audit period, up to Christmas. And each could be selling double the combined circulation of Marie Claire and Cosmo. As recently as four years ago no one thought men would buy a glossy mag full of sex and relationships. Looks as if they were buying Cosmo and Marie Claire.

Banks get their money back

How money flows is interesting to analyse. For a long time cable television has been known as a method by which banks could bury lots of money under our streets for no obvious reason.

Now, as cable starts to pick itself up, the banks seem to be getting their money back, in a roundabout way, from building societies. In the second quarter of 1997 cable installations grew by 5.6 per cent a year, compared with growth in satellite of just 1.3 per cent. This is contributing to a slow shift in satellite TV's domination of multi-channel television. Dish homes now account for 69 per cent of multi-channel homes, compared with 74 per cent a year ago. Both are still growing, according to the media analysts Continental Research, because a lot of the money from the building society windfall pay-outs is going into home entertainment, and much of that is going to cable TV.

A mystery solved

Amongst the reports of the BBC's efforts to attract more viewers to programmes about the rest of the world, there was reference to a 50 per cent fall since the Eighties in the number of documentaries about foreign countries. What was less clear is that this seems to be the effect of government policy. When the Government rewrote the rules governing commercial broadcasters in the 1990 Broadcasting Act, it relaxed the amount of public service broadcasting the ITV companies had to air. As a consequence the number of hours of documentaries set in the developing world on ITV fell by a whopping 75 per cent. The result of ITV showing more populist programming was to force the BBC to compete, and BBC1's foreign documentary output then fell by 40 per cent.

Paul Mc Cann