The consumer magazine industry, as expected, took some huge hits at the newsstand and in overall circulation during the first half of the year, according the much-anticipated Fas-Fax report, released last month by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Among the biggest drops in paid and verified circulation: Bauer’s Life & Style and In Touch, down 30 percent and 27.7 percent in overall paid circulation and 30.2 percent and 28.7 percent in single copy sales, respectively.

Newsweek, which will see president and publisher Greg Osberg resign this fall, posted a 17.3 percent drop in single copy sales and a 12.6 percent fall-off in subscriptions. The magazine’s overall paid and verified circulation slid 12.8 percent to 2.7 million. U.S. News & World Report’s paid and verified circulation fell 10 percent.

American Media Inc.’s National Enquirer saw subscription (-13.7 percent), single copy sales (-8.4 percent) and total paid and verified circ (-10.1) losses, while AMI’s Star didn’t fare much better (down 15.4 percent in subscriptions and 3.4 percent in single copy sales).

Vogue’s single copy sales fell 14.8 percent and 6 percent overall during the first half, while Playboy’s single copy sales (-23.5 percent) and total paid (-6.2) saw equally pronounced declines.

Holding Steady

A slew of titles managed to hold or even gain circulation while enduring the hit at the racks. TV Guide, for instance, saw its single copy sales plummet some 29 percent through June, but increased subscriptions by 2.4 percent and overall circulation by 0.3 percent.

Men’s Vogue’s single copy sales dropped nearly 40 percent, but the magazine increased overall circulation by 20 percent thanks to a 43.6 percent uptick in subscriptions.

Time’s single copy sales fell 7 percent, but its overall paid circulation (-0.3 percent) was left virtually untouched. Us Weekly’s single copy sales fell 10.4 percent, but its total paid circulation (0.2 percent) was flat.

Martha Stewart Living fell 11.6 percent in single copy sales, but managed to increase overall circ by 1.6 percent, according to ABC. (Martha Stewart Weddings, though, slipped 7.5 percent in single copy sales and 7.5 percent overall.) The Advocate’s single copy sales fell 22 percent but the title’s total paid and verified circ increased 4.7 percent. Cookie’s single copy sales fell 19 percent, but a huge boost in subscriptions (43.1 percent) led to an overall circ gain. Entrepreneur, recently pulled off the sales block, saw single copy sales fall 11 percent, but its overall circulation decreased just over half a percent.

Maxim’s single copy sales fell 11.7 percent, but its overall paid and verified circulation slid just 1.3 percent. Likewise, single copy sales for Rolling Stone slipped 6.6 percent during the first half, but overall paid circ (0.6 percent) actually increased.

But the hedging works both ways. Vanity Fair increased its single copy sales 6 percent but saw paid and verified circulation drop a percentage point, thanks to a 4 percent dip in subscriptions. Sports Illustrated saw a 19.1 percent spike in single copy sales, but its overall paid circ (0.3 percent) remained essentially flat. Texas Monthly did well at the newsstand (up 16 percent) but increased its overall paid circ by just 1.3 percent. And Dennis Publishing’s The Week increased single copy sales by a whopping 62 percent—with an average of 1,820 copies per issue—but just 1.7 percent overall.

Despite a fascinating Democratic primary season, The Nation’s subscriptions (down 2.6 percent), single copy sales (down 15.4 percent) and total paid and verified circ (down 2.8) all fell during the first half of the year.
It wasn’t bad news for all publishers, however. OK! magazine’s single copy sales increased 19.4 percent during the first half—far and away the best performing celebrity title at the newsstand—and its total paid and verified circ 11.8 percent.

The Atlantic continued its pursuit of profitability by increasing subscriptions 12.9 percent and total paid circ some 11.6 percent. And Wired increased its single copy sales (13.1 percent) and subscriptions (5.1 percent) for a 6.1 percent increase in total paid and verified circulation.

Top 12 Titles Bear the Brunt

Nearly two-thirds of consumer magazines that reported first half 2008 circulation figures with BPA Worldwide posted flat or lower circulation during the period, according to the audit group’s bi-annual report.
Mature Living Choices (-29.5 percent), Cell (-18.5), California Lawyer (-15.6), American Snowmobiler (-14.9) and Sacramento (-14.7) were the largest decliners.

Several titles also posted double-digit losses on the newsstand over the first half, including Florida Trend (-56.6 percent), National Fisherman (-51.1) and Restaurant Startup and Growth (-50.2). The positive standouts are Hispanic Business and Relish, which posted gains of 160.8 percent and 31.9 percent, respectively.

During the first half, Meredith’s Ser Padres magazine saw overall circulation rise 41.2 percent—the largest increase of any of the 101 consumer magazines tracked by BPA.
The American Journalism Review (+39.8 percent), newspaper magazine Relish (+31.9), WWE (+26.9) and the Weekly Standard (+18.1) were some of the other biggest overall BPA-audited circ gainers during the period.

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