Comics on sale in Booths, Garstang on 9th February 2016

British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (July – December 2015)

Comics on sale in Booths, Garstang on 9th February 2016
Comics on sale in Booths, Garstang on 9th February 2016

Updated 16th February to add comment from Generation Media

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) sales figures for titles registered with the organisation have just been published this week and while many comics or young children’s magazines have taken a hit for the reporting period (June – December 2015), there’s cheer for some, including the The Beano, which saw a modest rise in sales from its 2014 figures.

We’ve updated our spreadsheet of sales figures we think will most interest downthetubes readers here. These figures combine print circulation with digital edition sales.

The Press Gazette notes that overall, the 422 UK magazines audited by ABC lost circulation by an average of four per cent year on year in the last six months of 2015 – but consumer magazine circulation is still faring better than the newspaper sector.

The Top 100 best-seling consumer magazines includes Disney’s Frozen (gaining an 8.8 per cent increase year on year with average sales of 99,005), Disney Star Wars Lego, The Beano and TOXIC, while the Top 200 titles features some 40 titles with comic content or content aimed at the youth market – many of them comics. It’s no wonder there’s still such faith in the sector, despite sales figures being a pale shadow of decades past. Even titles with relatively low circulations of 20,000 are still profitable.

Comics and young people's magazines in the Top 100 of consumer magazine sales in the UK for July - December 2015. Figures: ABC
Comics and young people’s magazines in the Top 100 of consumer magazine sales in the UK for July – December 2015. Figures: ABC

In the young children’s magazines, the CBeebies-rleated titles continue to perform for Immediate Media, although CBeebies Magazine‘s sales have slipped; REdan’s Peppa Pig titles continue to perform well, although other Fun to Learn sales have dropped.

The big growth seems to be in the various LEGO-related titles for young children and older. While Lego – Lands of Chima sales have dropped, but the more recently-launched LEGO Ninjago enjoyed strong sales. Comparing reported sales figures for January – June 2015 to this period, July – December 2015  There’s a slight decline for Egmont’s TOXIC but year on year, the title saw a rise in sales, and the decline is nothing catastrophic compared with other magazines in the sector.

Doctor Who Adventures Issue 7 - CoverDoctor Who Adventures is still finding its feet at Panini with a drop to just over 17,000 copies an issue, but  Doctor Who Magazine sales have risen, which is good news for the team there. (Year on year, though, sales have declined by just over 20%). Titan don’t provide ABC data for Doctor Who Comic, so we don’t know how the launch of that title might be impacting on DWA’s sales.

Once again, the only superhero title that is ABC listed is Panini’s Ultimate Spider-Man, which has seen a drop in sales, but is still over the 30,000 mark and considered ‘static’ as opposed to ‘declining’ in the statistics. Let’s hope other superhero-related titles are doing as well.

Over in the once bouyant girls magazine sector, while Egmont’s Disney Frozen, leads the pack with stellar sales, most titles sales are down.

Commenting on Egmont’s success with Frozen Jo Doubtfire, publisher of Egmont’s Disney magazines portfolio, said: “Excitement about the Frozen story continues to grow and in the magazine Frozen fans find all the elements of the story that resonate with them.

“They enjoy interacting with their favourite characters off screen and our strong creative treatment and our exciting covermount programme really support this.”

“I am very proud of our performance in this round of ABCs,” said Cally Poplak, managing director of Egmont Publisher UK, noting significant year on year increases for TOXIC and Disney & Me.

“Realising growth in our challenging and highly competitive sector of the market is a real achievement.”

Last year, the Press Gazette noted that children’s magazines were among the best performing in the ABC figures for the first half of 2015, according to a sector-by-sector breakdown – and that doesn’t seem to have changed in any marked way with these new figures.

Generation Media, in a report on LicensingBiz, notes the sector demonstrating the biggest growth was Primary Boys, with TOXIC (+3.9 per cent Year on Year) and LEGO Ninjago (+10.5 per cent) still proving popular. The launch of three new Star Wars titles were also launched, culminating in a total 21.7 per cent year on year increase for boys titles. “While Ninjago remains the top Boys press property, with LEGO titles now restricting advertising to only LEGO products, we can expect to see advertisers turn to other titles to reach the primary boys audience.

“Pre-school remains the largest kids’ press sector, with these titles accounting for 44 per cent share of the total children’s press market. Peppa Pig remains untouchable accounting for the top two pre-school titles, with Fun to Learn Peppa Pig remaining the most sought after pre-school title for the fourth consecutive year. CBeebies Art has recovered from last year’s seven per cent decline, demonstrating a 16.6 per cent year on year growth.”

Outside the children’s sectors, of interest to downthetubes readers Private Eye‘s sales are still rising (229,777, up 4.9%), and The Oldie has also gained some ground (46,415, up 1.9%). Both feature cartoons and strips as well as humour features. VIZ has seen a small sales rise from its 2014 figures, too (50,029, up 0.4%).

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is the industry body for media measurement. The organisation brings the newspaper and magazine industry together to agree measurement and process Reporting Standards, a process that is constantly evolving to keep pace with industry developments.

Not every comic or children’s magazine is ABC listed, so as usual there are, sadly, no figures for 2000ADCommando or The Phoenix in the public domain.

• View our spreadsheet of ABC figures here (2006 – 2015)

Web Links

• Campaign: Top 100 Magazines At A Glance (July – December 2015)

• Press Gazette Top 200 Titles (July – December 2015)

Thanks to Lew Stringer for feedback

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

2 thoughts on “British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (July – December 2015)

  1. Some readers of this post have noted the drop in sales for Doctor Who Adventures and (year on year, Doctor Who Magazine, suggesting the demographic for the show has changed. I think you’ll find the demographic for Who is still a wide one, but has, perhaps, skewed toward older viewers with the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.

    But we’re living in an age where the current Doctor is competing not only with other TV but his past selves, too – and not just in this country, either. Look at the audience The Beatles still has. According to data gathered by companies such as Apple and others, the vast majority of Beatles fans are under the age of 36.These younger fans found the band and made them their own despite the lack of new material (or indeed, the band).

    The same applies to those who are discovering older incarnations of Who. Also, on DWA, its numbers will be down not only because of the current Doctor not necessarily playing to a younger audience, but not helped by, perhaps, the comic’s lack of promotion in its last days at Immediate Media, and the long time it took to get a digital edition back up and running, through no fault of the current editorial team but the simple difficulty of transferring ownership of an app from one company to another, which Apple have made difficult (I’m speaking from experience here).

    As I mentioned in the article I’ve no doubt the arrival of Titan’s Doctor Who Comic will also have had an impact on DWA sales, too. In terms of editorial content, DWA is a great title for its intended audience, but that audience will not be aware that Doctor Who Comic is reprint. To many it’s as new as DWA’s features and strip.

  2. One ongoing problem for all comics (and, indeed, small print run specialist magazines) is discoverability. Many comic fans don’t realise that these days, you have to pay to have your title on sale in newsagents. You pay for WH Smiths to promote your title; you pay to have your title stocked in the first place. In the case of Doctor Who Adventures, for example, this was, to all intents a continuing title when Panini bought and relaunched it, so promotional costs at a retail level should have been less, say, than DC Thomson has probably spent on getting their new Twirlywoos title off the ground, but I’m guessing the company still has to decide what it can afford in terms of which newsagents it wants DWA to be in. The Phoenix isn’t stocked by railway and airport Smiths – a separate division of WHS – because it would cost too much. But I would think they have chosen to be in the top 300 or 500 newsagents in the country. What you or I, or indeed the publisher doesn’t know, until they see EPOS sales figures, is whether or not these selected stores are the right stores for their title.

    While they’ll know, thanks to how fast EPOS figures are collated, how well the title is selling overall, they won’t know immediately where the title is selling best (although as a rule of thumb, 80 per cent of all a title’s sales are still in London, so you’re going to spend a lot of any consumer advertising (if you can afford it) there. It will take a while for a publisher to get a handle on where their title is selling best and amend their print run and distribution accordingly, and of course any new promotion incurs a cost.

    This is why licensed branded title, if it is a strong popular brand, are preferred fare for comics – the brand helps sell the product, and reduces the need for consumer targeted, expensive advertising. The Beano is these days much more than a comic – DC Thomson has built a brand of the comic, and its main characters. So has 2000AD, although Rebellion don’t report their sales figures to ABC so we don’t know how successful that branding is in terms of weekly sales.

    I’ve rambled a bit but essentially, the distribution system for magazines is skewed against new non branded titles and small publishers. Gone are the days when you could just put something out on a wing and a prayer at minimal cost and hope it would capture hearts and minds, based on your own editorial gut feeling that you’d come up with a great idea. Even before you can spend on promoting your title, you’re already shelling out a fortune to get it in front of people in the first place.

    Look at how Action, by comparison, was launched 40 years ago. IPC spent £50K on consumer advertising to launching it. No comics publisher would spend that much money on that kind of promotion launching a comic today – in today’s money that would be over £200K. Instead they are paying through the nose just to get the comic onto newsagents shelves.

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