Children’s Magazines are Bucking the Trend

Adam Woodgate

At a time when kids have access to more digital devices that ever before it’s good to see in that children’s magazines are doing great business – compared to the same period five years ago circulation has increased by a 29%!  The numbers look even better when put up against an ever declining “men’s lifestyle” magazines. Even women’s weeklies have seen sales fall.

These numbers come from the latest release of the audited circulation figures for consumer magazines (January-June 2013), which reveals sales of more than 2 million copies of children’s magazines and comics and an increase of 1.5% period-on-period.

Moshi Leads the Way

Looking at individual titles, despite selling 23,276 fewer copies than it did between July and December 2012, more copies of Moshi Monsters Magazine are sold than any other magazine in the category (208,535). Its nearest rival, Redan Publishing’s ‘Fun to Learn – Peppa Pig’, can’t even manage half of that, selling 92,992 over the same period. Another Redan title ‘Fun to Learn – Friends’, which features a host of familiar pre-school TV characters takes third place.

Characters Make the Difference

By grouping all the ‘character’ led titles (Octonauts, Ben 10, Fireman Sam, and others); eight brands have increased circulation compared to the last period. Heritage brand Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released audited figures for the first time with a total circulation of 40,184. Looking at the titles that have published previously, Octonauts has had the greatest increase in sales (+7,461), The Simpsons comic has suffered the steepest decline (-13,560). Overall the character led titles have performed well with a rise in combined sales compared to last period.

Like Moshi, all the titles derived from digital gaming brands have declined with Bin Weevils circulation falling by just over 16,000 to 26,004 and Club Penguin down just short of 8,000 to 35,615.

There has been a mixed performance amongst other cross-media titles, while Horrible Histories and CBeebies Weekly have held up well, selling only 308 and 718 fewer copies respectively period-on-period, sales of Cbeebies Special and Alphablocks have plummeted 11,940 and 10,305 respectively.

Publishers of children’s magazines and comics used to a volatile market with new launches and frequent closures of titles might feel relieved that the in the latest release only five titles have declined by more that 10,000 period-on-period. Does this mean they can be confident about the future?

Print Second

Of all the titles in the category, the ones that have had the stronger performances have been the ones with familiar characters and/or narrative that kids understand. They also happen to be titles with a brand whose origin wasn’t in print. Top sellers Moshi Monsters Magazine began its life as a digital property, Fun to Learn – Peppa Pig, Octonauts and Ben 10 had their origins on television, Monster High as a website (and later a doll range) and Hello Kitty as a coin purse in 1974!

What does this mean for titles that originated as a print brand? When you look at the numbers for the likes of boys’ magazine ‘Toxic’ (52,502) or debut pre-school title ‘Blossom’ (38,345) at first glance it appears that not being aligned to a familiar brand isn’t a problem. However both titles strongly feature familiar characters. Toxic with the likes of Lego and Angry Birds and Blossom, with content the audience will be familiar with like ‘The Little Princess’.

Parental Influence

It’s worth remembering that the majority of children’s magazines and comics are purchased by parents. And parents love magazines; they recall many happy hours spent reading them when they were kids. Parents trust magazines because they can flick through to see whether the content is age appropriate unlike their online equivalents where parents are more likely to exercise caution. Parents also appreciate the way kid’s magazines create that parent/child occasion this might take the form of educational (doing numeracy or literacy), discovery (feeding a passion for knowledge) or creativity (giving instructions on how to do something). It’s quite telling that many digital products are trying to create a similar dynamic or in the case of magazines like Moshi Monsters use a printed product to achieve this and compliment its digital offering.

In a category with new launches frequently coming to market, going forward it’s highly likely that the kid’s market will remain robust for some time.

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