The market for children’s magazines has succumbed to the economic downturn, despite having traditionally boasted a greater degree of resilience to economic turmoil than many of its more vulnerable counterparts in magazine publishing.
Last year proved to be something of a bloodbath for consumer publishing, with sales of children’s comics and magazines falling 8% to £125 million.
Pre-teen titles have shown greater resilience than the early years category, with sales of the former falling by 12% between 2007 and 2009, compared with a 17% decline for the latter.
Despite the anecdotal association of boys and comics, girls are emerging as a powerful base of readers, and targeting is subsequently based around this trend.
To some extent this reflects trends in television programmes, where the greater variety of choice in multichannel television and indeed number of available screens in any household has allowed programmes to move away from ‘mass catering’.
The subsequent breadth of characters dedicated to each gender has allowed several successful single titles, and a host of compilation titles to flourish on the back of these gender-specific properties.
Although 82% of children read comics or magazines, children themselves are much less likely to actually buy them. Among 7-10s, magazines are being purchased primarily by parents for their children, with only 18% of children buying for themselves.
Nearly six in ten kids are attracted by free covermount giveaways that come with comics and magazines, reflecting the growing consumer expectation of getting things for free.
One in five consumers has bought a children’s magazine for their own children, while a similar proportion have purchased for other people’s children.
The most common reason for buying magazines is as a form of distraction, with 42% of families who buy them saying they do so to keep the kids occupied. This motivation is ahead of the promotion of literacy – only 25% feel comics and magazines are the best way to encourage kids to read.
The teenage and men’s magazines markets have been badly hit by the impact of the internet, with circulation plummeting over the last few years. Magazines and advertisers are now trying to find ways of bringing magazine titles into the digital age, but are faced with the conundrum of how to make publishing online profitable, when dealing with a generation that has become accustomed to being entertained online for free.
Indeed, although much of the children’s magazine user base is too young to migrate out of the category and onto the internet, access to the internet among 7-14s has now reached 96%, and one in five children aged 7-12 admit that time spent on the internet is eating into the time they would normally spend reading.
Consequently, innovation in the children’s magazine category has been heavily focused on establishing an online presence for magazine brands that brings a convergence between the hard copy and online publishing formats.