February is the month when the Audit Bureau Of Circulations (ABC), who describe themselves as “the industry body for media measurement”, release the official circulation figures for Consumer Magazines that are registered with them. That includes comics and comics magazines published by Panini, Denis Publishing and DC Thomson. It should be pointed out that all the sales figures given here are average sales per issue.
The two Doctor Who titles, the long running Doctor Who Magazine and the junior Doctor Who Adventures will always have a more challenging time while the series is off-air, remembering of course that there was only one new episode of the series broadcast in 2016 and that was the Christmas special at the very end of the period that these sales figures cover.
On the face of it Doctor Who Magazine has had a drastic fall sales-wise between the first half of 2016 and the second half, with a drop of almost 13% from official sales figures of 25,832 to 22,523. As a magazine comparison, Future Publishing’s SFX had average sales per issue over the whole of 2016 of 20,230.
However a bald reading of the DWM numbers does not do the title justice as the previous set of sales figures included the publication of the 500th issue which saw a massive 71% increase in sales over the previous issue. Most, but not all, of these extra sales disappeared with issue 501, so while the sales average for the first half of 2016 for DWM was officially 25,832, removing both issues 500 and 501 from that calculation brings the average down to 21,419. Seen from that perspective, without the sales figures being skewed by the massive issue 500 sales bump, the current ABC number of 22,523 for DWM is much healthier and shows that the title has retained at least some of the readers that issue 500 brought on board.
In addition to the series being off-air for most of 2016, the previous series of Doctor Who was broadcast at a later time and generally had less child-friendly episodes, so it is not surprising that Doctor Who Adventures’ sales figures are down once again. The 10,364 average sales for the 4 issues published in the last six months of 2016 is 8% down on the 11,268 for the 7 issues published in the first six months. While it would be interesting to see just how far sales could fall before Panini consider it to be too unprofitable to continue with the title, it must be remembered that a new series of Doctor Who is not far off now which should help bolster DWA’s sales figures somewhat.
Panini’s other ABC registered comic is Ultimate Spider-Man which reprints US Marvel strips. In the first half of 2016 this sold 31,738 copies per issue while in the second half of the year that had reduced to 27,604, a fall of 13%. It also has to be said that the three lowest sales figures for individual issues were the last three of the year.
While many Consumer Magazine titles, like those above, receive a six monthly ABC report, DC Thomson titles (other than Commando which is not ABC registered) and Viz get reported annually.
As if the counteract the gloom of some of the figures above, sales of The Beano have increased by 3% , rising from 33,714 in 2015 to 34,778 in 2016. While this is obviously good news for the title, what is more interesting is that 2016 was the first year when subscriptions to The Beano overtook retail (ie shop) sales. In 2015 subscriptions accounted for 44% of sales, by 2016 they were almost 51% of sales. This gives The Beano a remarkably firm sales footing for the future.
Epic, which is the continuation of the title that began as BeanoMAX and has had various other names including the Dennis and Gnasher Megazine, on the other hand lost over 18% of sales between 2015 and 2016, falling from 17,170 to 14,000. Unlike The Beano, Epic’s subscription base is almost negligible at less than 3% of total sales.
For the sake of the curious, DC Thomson’s weekly Sunday Post newspaper, which is the home of both “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons”, reports monthly and in December 2016 had average sales per issue of 142,863. That, as is typical of most newspapers these days, is down in comparison to 165,153 in December 2015.
Finally Viz which sees a 13% fall in sales, from 50,929 in 2015 to 48,235 in 2016. Like Beano, Viz has a high subscriber base of 34.5% of sales in 2016 which would seem to bode well for its future survival – even if it wasn’t the best selling comic in the United Kingdom.
• There are more details of the Audit Bureau Of Circulations on its website
As noted above, not every UK comic is ABC rated