Circulation figures for the first six months of 2008 have just been released by ABC, so here's our bi-annual round-up. (See here for the March 2008 round-up.)
The latest circulation figures show what is becoming a predictable steadily declining set of figures with only one or two launches. Why should this be?
I believe it's down to the fact that most comics/pre-school magazines are based on licensed material. The initial hype surrounding a new series will give a new title a solid launch—In the Night Garden being a prime example from 2007. Sales will, naturally, decline once the first set of free gifts has run out but remain bolstered by continual appearances on television over the next couple of years.
However, the pre-school market has a very narrow age range and young children will grow out of watching a show fairly quickly, starting a decline in sales which is never bolstered completely by the arrival of new readers. New shows take over the most popular viewing slots, relegating a show to a less popular time slot, losing viewers in the process, especially once there are no new episodes to watch.
All of this means that a popular magazine will have a high sale for a couple of years followed by a sharp fall from grace. A good example of this is Teletubbies which, in 2002, was selling over 100,000 copies per issue but has since declined to its current figure of just over 30,000. A similar pattern can be seen in the sales of Tweenies, Balamory and the now-defunct Fimbles, all CBeebies regulars. Even the CBeebies anthology magazines, Toybox and CBeebies Weekly, which feature many of the same characters, are showing signs of decline.
For the six months covered, Teletubbies was the biggest loser, down 11,300 sales per issue, followed by Toybox (down 9,300), Balamory (down 7,700), Noddy Magazine (down 7,600), In the Night Garden (down 6,700, although this is a settle down figure following its launch) and Fun to Learn—Favourites (down 5,300).
The year-on-year (y/y) figures show an even sharper decline for some magazines: y/y, Teletubbies is down 23,500 sales per issue (42.7%), Toybox is down 19, 100 sales per issue (20.7%), Charlie & Lola down 16,400 (24.2%), Balamory down 14,900 (34.1%), Bob the Builder down 13,500 (19.8%), Noddy Magazine down 9,600 (29.8%), Disney and Me down 8,400 (15.3%), Tweenies down 8,200 (21.2%) and CBeebies Weekly down 8,200 (11.8%).
The only magazine that seems to be bucking the trend is Redan's Fun to Learn—Friends, which has added 11,300 sales y/y (up 15%), perhaps at the expense of its companion Fun to Learn—Favourites which has lost 16,600 sales in the same period (down 24.6%).
Cancelled titles in the last six months include Fi-Fi Magazine, Learn with Bob the Builder, Fimbles Magazine, Me Too and Underground Ernie, all published by BBC Worldwide. In addition, BBC Worldwide folded Disney Witch Magazine (aimed at a slightly older age range) but noted only in their annual review for 2007-08 that "Six small children’s titles were closed as part of the continuous review of the overall portfolio."
The big surprise to most people will be the sharp fall in sales of Doctor Who Adventures from BBC Worldwide which had a steady sale of around 155,000 in 2007 but shed over a third of its readership in the first half of 2008—during which period the BBC were broadcasting the fourth season of the show. Sales fell by 61,000 per issue (down nearly 40%), the fall almost certainly caused by the change in schedule from fortnightly to weekly in January 2008, three months ahead of the new series launch. It would be interesting to know what was happening in the same period with Panini's Dr Who Magazine but its circulation isn't audited by ABC.
The Simpsons Comics from Titan shed 21,000 readers although this is only a 7,700 (6.4%) drop y/y. Simpsons Comics Presents also fell by 15,400, a fall of 5,400 (6.8%) y/y. Both titles showed particularly good second half sales for 2007 which is why the drop appears so dramatic. Simpson's Treasure Trove was cancelled during this period.
Beano took a substantial loss of 12,500 (16.8%) and Dandy took a similar percentage loss (16.4%) but, starting from a far lower figure this meant a circulation drop of only 4,700 copies per issue. BeanoMax held fairly steady, down only 6%. Another popular D. C. Thomson title, Bratz, shed 11,000 copies per issues, perhaps indicating that the Bratz craze is at an end.
Other falling circulations were recorded for Panini's Scooby Doo (7,600) and Spectacular Spiderman (5,600), and Titan's Spongebob Squarepants (5,000) and Transformers (6,400).
The biggest rise in sales was for BBC Worldwide's Go Girl which increased its sales by nearly 5,000 copies per issue, a 15,500 increase y/y.
Disney High School Musical debuted from Panini UK in September 2007 at the same time the second HSM movie was released. One would expect the title to continue to do well in the second half of 2008 with the release of the third movie.
Please note that the chart only covers titles where circulation figures are available and there are probably twice as many comics and children's magazines available on the newsagents shelves.
(* High School Musical The Official Magazine © Panini UK; In the Night Garden and Doctor Who Adventures © BBC Worldwide.)