Printed media’s transfer to digital has not affected all products in all countries to the same magnitude at the same rate. For example, total sales of hard copies of newspapers among 20 leading world economies were still rising in 2014, while magazine sales peaked in 2008. However, the numbers for newspapers was propped up almost single-handedly by the Indian market, whose sales dominate the hard copy market. Further, not all the changes are due to switching on line: magazines still tend have a considerable impulse sales element and have more of a non-essential nature and, as such, are susceptible to prevailing economic conditions.

Looking at the segmentation in the magazine market also gives clues to the culture and attitudes across the world.

The differences are shown in the chart below
Magazine hard copy sales

Variety the name of the game

Although there is some discretion in assigning brands to categories, not least because the content and/or image of a particular title may vary markedly by territory, this must be one of the markets showing the greatest variety in segmentation, despite the presence of some international titles and players. As such it is difficult to draw general conclusions other than that on the stage of the single global market, magazines are still in the wings.

Long heritage women’s titles

However, one conclusion, if somewhat tentative, is that women’s and home features more prominently in the more developed countries: in particular Spain and Australia. The leading titles in both of these countries have a long heritage; the two top titles in the latter: Woman’s Day and New Idea, were launched before the second world war, while the Hola! title, the number two in Spain, and sister publication to Hello!, is some 70 years old. The top selling Spanish magazine, Pronto, is a comparatively new kid on the block at an age of around 40!

Famously changing with the times

The reason for their longevity has been their adaptability and ability to reflect and, some might argue, even spearhead, the changes in the society around them. As more women have gone into paid employment and the parental to marital home life-trend has faded, so their content has transformed. Most prominent has been the interest in celebrities nurtured and reported on extensively in each issue.

Recipe for success

Following the rich and famous need not necessarily be the domain of just women, but these titles still retain some of the feminine-appeal content of their former selves. For example, recipes remain a feature but, nowadays, the emphasis has switched from satisfying the appetite of their husbands involved in hard, physical work with wholesome filling meals, to more about calorie-counting food and drink and quick-to-prepare dishes for women in paid work.

Interest in celebrity lifestyles is by no means the preserve of consumers in the West, but these titles do relatively less well outside the developed world. Some of this relates to the financial situation of women. Generally speaking it is their disposable income which is hit harder in recessionary times.

Digital variation

Some of the variation in segmentation relates to the variable impact of digitalisation. As a rule of thumb, the occasional and impulse purchasing nature of many women’s and home titles lends itself to hard copy. In countries where access to the internet is universal and high grade, it is mainly the other magazine segments which have lost more to on line. For example, it is noticeable that hard copy business titles in most of these countries have fared worse in recent years due to greater access of their client base to reliable digital copy.
Special circumstances

On this note it is necessary to mention the importance of India to the market. It has the largest hard copy magazine market in the world accounting for one in five of issues bought in the leading 20 world economies. This is not unconnected to broadband access with per capita penetration among the lowest in the world. Accordingly, women’s and home titles form the largest segment here. However, the single best-selling magazine is the news and current affairs title: India Today. This illustrates how individual circumstances play a role in the market: this is the English version which unites a country with many regional languages and interests.

While digitalisation will increase apace, it will take some time for the range of content across magazines to become truly global.

Peter Ayton is Global Market Sizing Quality Manager at Mintel. He is responsible for ensuring that market data is comparable, compatible and pertinent across the organisation’s range of products. His several roles over 30 years at Mintel have included editing, analysing, publishing and conference speaking across the whole range of titles from food to finance and personal care to pharmaceuticals.