Gardening and baking buck the trend for plummeting circulations

Lockdown has devastated newspaper and magazine circulations, says Sean Hargrave, but some special interest titles have soared

A year of pandemic restrictions was only ever going to have a negative impact on sales of printed newspapers and magazines.

Many titles have struggled but amid the doom and the gloom, there are a handful that have bucked the trend and posted improvements in their circulations during 2020. As one might imagine, the lockdown winners were mostly found in cooking and gardening titles.

The biggest rise was seen at cooking magazine, Olive, which shot up 34%, with BBC Easy Cook posting a 14% rise. Green-fingered home workers looking to make their gardens more presentable prompted growth of 8% at BBC Gardening World and 7% at Garden Answers.

It was not just baking and pruning that won out, parents were obviously looking to entertain children with a 37% rise for “The Week Junior” – general entertainment magazines for boys and girls saw a similar lift.

Magazine losers

While lockdown magazine buyers were clearly looking for gardening and cooking inspiration, they most definitely were not looking for celebrity gossip or advice on the latest fashion outfits. Heat was down 33% and Closer 27%.

They certainly were not using lockdown to shed some pounds either, Slimming World Magazine was one of the biggest losers with a 23% drop in sales. With cinemas shut, it will come as little surprise that film magazines were down by an average of 25%.

Newspaper losers

These may sound like big drops but pale into insignificance compared to Metro, the paper handed out to commuters in London. With people working from home, its circulation plummeted by 58%. Similarly, the Evening Standard which is also handed out to Londoners for free, has seen a decline of 39%. The Daily Mail and Daily Express also big losses, dropping 18% and 19% respectively.

The losses are reflected in local newspaper circulations which dropped by 18% for dailies and 21% for non-dailies during 2020.

It should be pointed out that magazines and newspapers were reporting higher online readership figures during lockdown. Nevertheless, it goes without saying publishers will welcome the planned lifting of pandemic restriction in June 2021 which will boost footfall at transport hubs and newsagents.

Sean Hargrave

Sean Hargrave is the former Innovation Editor of The Sunday Times, now freelancing for The Guardian, The Telegraph, Wired and digital marketing, websites, Econsultancy, Marketing Week, London Research and Mediapost. He uses more than two decades of experience in the media to help companies with their content and communications strategy to deliver leads through white papers, blogs and opinion pieces. For MediaCat UK, Sean keeps ahead of the latest news and trends.

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