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Real-life magazines

Think you’ve had it tough? Cheer yourself up with a dose of real-life stories from these magazines – ALL for the unbeatable price of £5.49. Alan Geere looks out from behind the sofa…

By Alan Geere

Real-life magazines


What’s it about: ‘The original real-life mag’ – incorporated in masthead.

Vital statistics: September 23, 2021 issue: 60 pages of 285mm x 210mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. £1.10 cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 150,288. Published weekly by Future in London.

Cover: Big picture of an animated young woman, which doesn’t appear to tie in with any of the seven coverlines that all have their own pictures.

Content: ‘Come on in!’ on page three breaks down the inside contents into ‘On the cover’, ‘More true stories’, ‘Your favourites’ and ‘Get puzzling’, which has the biggest entry of all with 21 items. The real-life stories, from home and abroad, are briskly told and creatively illustrated. There is plenty of other content too: Picture Perfect is readers photos, Just Genius (£25 for tips with photos), health, shopping (boots, towels), Agony Auntie Nelly, Money Matters, recipes, beauty and holidays as well as all those puzzles.

Believe-it-or-not headline: “I spent £20k on chicken nuggets”, courtesy of 27-stone Amy.

Digital: Page three promo to Facebook with 190k likes and a link to which bounces into a subscription site. @ChatMagazine is lurking on Twitter with 6.6k followers, but no posts since May 2019. Also a link to which again goes to

What they say: “Do you have an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree? Enjoy dressing your pet up in festive gear?” – getting in the holiday mood on Facebook (and we pay £££ for pics!).

Verdict: Just four pages of ads (sanitary products, plants, pet insurance, slippers) plus two pages of ‘Marketplace’ means there is plenty of room to spread the love (including ‘Help, I’m a cougar!’). Rattles along with plenty to read, look at and admire – all told with compassion and conviction.

love it!

What’s it about: ‘Britain's top weekly mag stuffed with the very best real life’ – description on Twitter.

Vital statistics: September 30, 2021 issue: 56 pages of 285mm x 205mm. Matt paper and cover, stitched. 79p cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 62,187. Published weekly by ACH Publishing Ltd in Oldham.

Cover: Large two-colour dominant headline with headshot. Four further coverlines and five smaller pictures.

Content: ‘Inside’ on page two categorised by ‘On the cover’, ‘More real life’, ‘Lifestyle’ and ‘Favourites’. Straight into three big real-life spreads all displayed with tabloid aplomb, including one insightful take on Afghan refugees in the UK. Plenty of shorter reads – “We love your quickies!” – and changes of pace with fashion, travel, stars, TV and food. Readers involved with letters, photos, weight loss stories and tips.

Believe-it-or-not headline: “When I got caught short in a lift, there was only one thing for it…”

Digital: Neat website at, with some of the stories from the latest edition and the all-important link to ‘sell us your story’. Click through to Twitter with 27.4k followers, despite no activity since July 2019. Also 36k likes on an up-to-date Facebook account which is mainly competitions.

What they say: “ACH operates outside the London media bubble to offer flexibility without preconceived ideas about budget-stretching resourcing” – publisher sells its Northern credentials on the magazine website.

Verdict: The tabloid newspaper expertise of the publishing team shines through on every page with compelling display and convincing headlines. Have to admire their international approach – the two main stories on the cover are from the United States – to seeking out the best for readers, who are rewarded with an irresistible package, and change from £1.

Pick Me Up!

What’s it about: ‘The cheapest real life magazine!’ – strapline on the cover.

Vital statistics: September 30, 2021 issue: 52 pages of 290mm x 200mm. Matt paper and cover, stitched. 76p cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 63,877. Published weekly by Future at the ‘Pick Me Up! Media Centre’ in Bristol.

Cover: Six real-life story promos, all with pictures incorporating 13 ‘real people’ headshots, plus health, food and fashion.

Content: A column of contents on page three divided into ‘On the cover’, ‘More real life’, ‘From you’ and ‘Feelgood’. Page three generously given over to 73-year-old Dorothy who raised £1,200 for a cats charity with a wing-walk. Substantial spreads for all the cover stories, interspersed with puzzles, one-pagers like ‘Your dilemmas’, ‘Animal magic’ and ‘Look amazing!’. Plenty of interaction with readers and places to go for help and advice.

Believe-it-or-not headline: ‘My girlfriend is now my husband!’

Digital: Promo in the magazine to Facebook with 159k likes, and the ubiquitous non-working (see Chat, above). Also, unpromoted, on Twitter with 4.8k followers, who have had no updates since May 2019.

What they say: “To stop children putting carrier bags over their heads, always tie them in a knot before storing.” – Guess that’s the bags, not the children. This ‘Tip of the week’ won Judith from Essex a handy spatula.

Verdict: Put together by super-agency SWNS (née South West News Service), this professional publication pops on every page. As SWNS says on its website: “We produce the entire product from end-to-end – sourcing and writing the content, designing and laying out pages” which helps provide distinct content in this crowded market. Difficult to believe what else could rival it for 76p…

Real people

What’s it about: ‘It’s so true’ – peeping out of the masthead.

Vital statistics: September 30, 2021 issue: 48 pages of 275mm x 210mm. Matt paper and cover, stitched. 89p cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 84,934. Published weekly by Hearst in London.

Cover: Six well-crafted promos to stories about, er, real people all with pictures. Three references to WIN! all helping the substantial word count that comes in at more than 50.

Content: Editor Karen introduces contents on page three trailing ‘On the cover’, ‘Real life’ and ‘Puzzle trail’ and the promise of ‘Earn up to £2,000’ by selling your story. The first feature – ‘Part-time predator’ – is given time and space over three pages before ‘Quick reads’ and an ingenious run of four pages of children’s puzzles. Health, food, pets and stars complement the real-life spreads.

Believe-it-or-not headline: ‘First he stole her pants, then her partner…’

Digital: Website at has enough content to give a taste of the magazine plus puzzles and pets. Also links to Twitter, with 6,577 followers but no posts since February 2019, and Facebook where the updated content has gathered 37k likes.

What they say: “The supermarket shelves are empty and petrol’s harder to find than a man who picks up his dirty socks… but we’ve got you covered.” – Post on Facebook gets to the heart of the readership of “busy young mums and working women”, according to the media pack.

Verdict: Lots to read in this packed production. The main features are expansively told but there are plenty of pages to dip into as well. Readers are well represented with stories and pictures, plus puzzles just for fun and also to win prizes. Upbeat, despite some of the upsetting stories, fun and approachable.

Take a Break

What’s it about: ‘Your favourite weekly’ – tagline above the masthead.

Vital statistics: September 23, 2021 issue: 60 pages of 285mm x 226mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. £1.10 cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 337,688. Published weekly by Bauer in London.

Cover: Four illustrated real-life coverlines and ‘I caught a pervert in my little girl’s bedroom’ over a picture of a smiling woman, who is not the pervert catcher. Prizes, holiday breaks and cooking all find a corner.

Content: Intros on page three with contents cleverly highlighting ‘On the cover’. Main features are told in the first-person by the protagonist, quite a feat of ghost-writing. Change of pace with a serious survey about household chores plus trending fashion, beauty, health, cookery, homes, holidays, stars and tons of puzzles and competitions.

Believe-it-or-not headline: ‘Kiss my feet and beg for your life’.

Digital: Links on page three to Facebook, with 102k likes, and Instagram with 8.5k followers. Hunt around and find website, which has a range of content including ‘sneak peek’ at the latest issue and link to Twitter with 5k followers, although inactive since February 2019.

What they say: “We are very glad we shared our story with Take a Break… none of it was made up and it didn’t include anything we didn’t say.” – one-nil to journalism in a testimonial on, first stop for ‘sell your story for cash’.

Verdict: TaB – as it calls itself – is the market leader, selling twice as many as any rival, and it’s not difficult to see why. Putting the ‘I’ in those real-life stories is a masterstroke, involving the reader with every twist and turn of the often harrowing storylines. Plenty of quick and easy fun to be had with the complementary content.

that’s life!

What’s it about: ‘The UK’s best selling women’s weekly’ [sic] – description on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: September 30, 2021 issue: 48 pages of 280mm x 210mm. Gloss paper and cover, stitched. 85p cover price. Combined ABC (Jan-Dec 2020) of 141,933. Published weekly by Bauer in London.

Cover: Four substantial come-ons to real-life stories, with headlines, pictures and page numbers. An unconnected smallish picture of a model. Also health, competitions and a free milkshake.

Content: ‘Inside this issue’ on page three has all the contents, plus a quick puzzle for starters. Like stablemate Take a Break (see above) also has first-person stories, but does include ‘as told to’ crediting the hard-working journalist. An ongoing postnatal depression campaign and a thoughtful spread on regrets show a serious side while a page of ‘Aren’t men daft’ is just that. Lots more to like including ‘Ask a doctor’, affordable fashion, recipes, beauty and cash clinic.

Believe-it-or-not headline: ‘My baby girl was born with a willy’.

Digital: Advertised website at has opportunity to sign up for a newsletter, ways to subscribe and other lifestyle choices via bingo and dating. Links to Facebook with 69k likes, and 4.6k followers on Twitter.

What they say: “that’s life! readers love to share their lives and are extremely interactive with the magazine – every week we receive over 80,000 reader communications.” – Wow, that is a LOT of ‘communications’, as outlined in the media pack.

Verdict: Not afraid to tackle the more serious topics alongside the shared mayhem of real lives, this is a welcome member of the sisterhood of real-life magazines. For more than 25 years, it has kept its readers happy, no doubt helped by the affordable cover price.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.