Slimming World: a best-selling story

Wake up, national journalists. There’s one magazine not far from CBJ whose circulation is soaring but no one ever writes about it

The six-monthly report revealing how UK magazines are faring circulation-wise came out this month and, once again, the national media ignored the stellar publishing success story of our times.

Slimming World, the Alfreton-based women’s magazine which covers all things healthy living, fitness and dietary, has chalked up a rise for the eighth year in a row and has a combined print and digital circulation of 476,741, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). It is now the country’s fifth best-selling magazine, ahead of titles including Good Housekeeping, Closer, Cosmo and Woman’s Own.
(It is also currently home to MA Magazine Journalism graduate Alice Goodman, @frowcrow, while our magazine lecturer, Claire Suddaby, was previously chief-sub there.)
Yet for the analysts of the national press this publishing phenomenon rates barely a mention in their round-up of trends. MediaWeek, for example, gives little more than a passing nod to SW’s super soaraway sales rise and the Guardian ignores it altogether.
And, we are told, the phone hasn’t exactly been ringing red hot at SW HQ with hacks wanting quotes from the team, though the editors and publishers of other magazines are routinely called up on ABC publication day.
What lies behind this metropolitan blindness? There could be several explanations
One is that SW is based in Alfreton, Derbyshire – just up the road from CBJ in Nottingham but a million miles away, figuratively, from the London media world.
Another is that weight loss isn’t a sexy topic, unlike showbiz, film or cars, and journalists themselves don’t read SW or its rival, WeightWatchers.
A third is the perception that, because SW is part of a membership organisation, the magazine somehow ‘doesn’t really count’ – yet the revenue it generates from its more than 463,000 ‘actively purchased’ copies is real enough.
CBJ is a big admirer of Slimming World which, to us encapsulates much that is excellent in magazine practice: they know their readers inside out and respect them; their attention to detail is impeccable; and they produce editorial which is both entertaining and credible.
And their circulation just keeps on rising – hardly something many mags are crowing about at present.
Our MA Magazine Journalism students will get their own chance to find out the secret of its success in October when editor Elise Wells comes to CBJ to give a masterclass in magazine editing.
We expect that the students, unlike the national media, will know a good story when they see one.

Julie Nightingale, MAMJ course leader, @JulieCBJ

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