Today we’ll be looking at the news and current affairs market, The Economist, The Spectator, New Statesman, The Week and Prospect. Who’s doing well, who’s surviving, and who’s waiting for the defibrillator?
Our 800 pound gorilla is The Economist. 40,000 UK newsstand and 107,000 subs, large numbers of classified pages and corporate advertising, and ‘must have’ status among the business world (even if it doesn’t always get to the ‘must read’ level). Even with 32,000 frees and bulks, probably the only danger to The Economist is hubris (or, possibly, the staff suffering from terminal boredom from having to read Intelligent Life).
The Week grinds ever upwards, now with an ABC of more than 145,000 copies, most of which are on subscription. Given that it can’t cost that much to pay someone to sit there with a pair of scissors and a tub of cow gum, The Week must be making a small fortune for Dennis and since the BBC axed Week-lite, it doesn’t have too many clouds on its horizon.
The Spectator keeps publishing increased ABC figures and seems packed full with lots of expensive-looking adverts. Now that it’s got the albatross of The Business from around its neck surely it should power every further upward. And yet, and yet… its most recent ABC has an awful lot of copies that aren’t actively purchased. Out of 75,600 circulation 12,500 are free and 500 are bulks. It also has 10,600 overseas newsstand sales (yeah, right). There are mutterings about the influence of Andrew Neil and his impact on the editorial, and there seem to be fewer glossy ads and more house ads than there used to be.
But if we’re playing hunt the advert it’s our next two titles that give the most fun. Prospect magazine has shown increased circulation in recent ABCs (up 20% year-on-year) even discounting the 5,500 frees, but its ad/ed ratio seems to be, er, generous to the editorial department. Even on the most optimistic assessment there can’t be more than £750K of circulation revenue per annum and I can’t believe the ad revenue comes close to this, so it’ll need to keep reaching into the deep pockets of Derek Coombs until he can find someone to offload it on to.
And if it’s irrational funding you’re after, then hat’s off to Geoffrey Robinson, the man who’s kept the New Statesman going these past ten years. With a much-heralded relaunch bringing in new readers who have since evaporated, the sudden departure of the editor and cutbacks in promotional budgets, the poor old staggers needs a miracle or continued interventions by Geoff’s big fat chequebook. Circulation is down 12% year-on-year and that includes 4,000 free copies – it now sells fewer copies than Fimbles magazine (the Fimbles have always been more Blairite than pro-Brown). Political magazines tend to be owned by domineering proprietors who are more concerned with the influence they bring rather than the return they make, but we must be close to the point when even he thinks enough is enough.
02/04/08 Update: Here comes the crash cart Remind me again, what sort of person and their money are soon parted?