Magazine Circulation Free Fall Slowing a Bit


No news here that magazine circulations continue to fall but at least they may be out of free-fall ……. for now according to the Fas-Fax report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the first half of this year. Total paid subscriptions were 267,413,646, down 1.96 percent while Total Single-Copy Sales were 32,479,272, a fall-off of 5.63 percent.The industry has struggled to keep circulation numbers up which in, in turn, have created more woes for advertising rates and there is that darn economy thing. All in all, it’s been a bit rough recently for magazines, hasn’t it?

paidContent.org reports

The downward trajectory of consumer magazine circulation appears to have slowed in the first half of the year. While publishers weren’t able to muster the slightly positive growth that ad pages have had lately—the Publishers Information Bureau recorded its first increase in ad pages and rates after two negative years last month—but as mags rely more on paid circ to pay the bills, these numbers are becoming more crucial. So far, paid circ is becoming more stable, but newsstand sales are struggling much harder.

One interesting note from this article is a subtle change in how newsstand sales are reported for publishers. It’s here that they have seen the hardest hits with regard to numbers but there attempt to raise those numbers is focused on online versions of the magazines.

Over the past six months, a few publishers, notably Conde Nast, have gotten approval from the ABC to include digital replicas of their mags sold through apps on the iPad or iPhone to be counted toward newsstand sales. It’ll take a while until those sales become meaningful, but titles like Wired have had a pretty good start.

That makes sense since the nature of delivery of magazines is changing. Where there is a difference is with companies like Hearst who are not taking this tact because they are not offering replicas of their mags for the online space. They are trying to differentiate the offerings so they are not delivering the same content as the hard copies of their titles.

All in all, at least there may be some hope regarding the magazines industry’s woes. We all understand that what goes up must come down but how far down can this industry go?

What are your thoughts on magazines? Will the online world make them obsolete or is that just something to write about in blogs? Do you still have a favorite magazine that you actually hold in your hand on a weekly or monthly basis? Would you change over to the electronic version only if you absolutely had to?

  • Cynthia Boris

    I used to be a big magazine reader and I’ve returned to them somewhat over the past year, but I’ll never subscribe the way I used to. It’s reading for entertainment now where it used to be for information. If I wait for a magazine to show up, it’s old news. Mostly, I still subscribe to cooking magazines even though there are thousands of recipes on the Internet. I still like flipping through the pages and deciding on what I would cook if I only had the time. LOL

  • Kim Welsh

    I spent 20 years in the magazine business and have been a part of the change it has been undergoing for the past several years. Unlike print which has defined audit trails and revenue models in terms of advertising and subscriptions, online versions have yet to establish those same strong trails and models — and acceptance of both among advertisers. Consumer magazines dug themselves into a pretty deep hole by training subscribers to wait for the trinket – a camera, a watch, or a handy dandy gym bag – before renewing their subscriptions. That was hard enough to overcome. Now the hurdle is “everything is free on the web” and so the battle continues.

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