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Magazine FAS-FAX: Newsstand Decline Continues, Subs Flat

Single-copy sales dropped 12 percent while paid subs eked out a half-point gain.



By Bill Mickey
08/31/2009

RELATED: Celebrity, Fashion Magazines Collect Dust on Newsstands

ABC's FAS-FAX report was released today and preliminary numbers show circulation and newsstand performance for the first half of 2009 did not do well. While overall paid subscriptions for 521 reporting titles remained flat, up about half a percentage point, single-copy sales are down 12 percent versus the same period last year.

On the Newsstand

As a category, the top-selling 25 consumer magazines audited by ABC were all down save one—Real Simple squeaked out a 1.17 percent gain on the newsstand. Family Circle dropped the most, 22.55 percent compared to first-half 2008.

This is significant because those 25 titles account for almost 50 percent of the single-copy sales of all 521 magazines tracked on the newsstand by ABC.

Among ABC's top-ten single-copy gainers that sold more than 100,000 units, only one broke a double-digit percentage. Mother Earth News shot up 29 percent. The next highest gainer was Women's Health at almost 9 percent. Four titles had positive newsstand growth in this range under 5 percent. [Note: this paragraph initially and incorrectly identified "overall" top-ten single-copy gainers. It has since been corrected to only single out the top ten that sold more than 100,000 units.]

The six main celebrity titles—In Touch (-18 percent), Life &Style (-8 percent), OK! (-20 percent), People (-13 percent), Star (-14 percent), and Us (-3 percent)—were all notably down. However, the weeklies were particularly hard-hit when wholesaler Anderson News shut down in February, which caused sales losses and delays for its 25 percent marketshare.

Nevertheless, this is the second period in a row the category has suffered decline. In the second half of 2008, those six titles were down more than an average of 25 percent.

However, as reported last week, late second-half numbers may indicate an  upward trend on the newsstand. MagNet numbers show a 2.6 percent jump in single-copy sales in May and June and a 2.1 percent jump in revenue compared to the first four months of the year. "These numbers indicate to me that May and June may have changed the momentum on the newsstand for magazine publishers," said Ken Godshall, MPA's executive vice president of consumer marketing. "That's a change in direction from what we've seen in the last couple ABC periods and may be a sign of hope for the future."

Subscriptions

Total paid subscriptions remained relatively flat—up only .56 percent. Verified circ, which had grown as a source for many of the big publishers last year, was down almost 4 percent.

Looking at the newsweeklies, Newsweek reported an 8 percent drop in paid subscriptions. Interestingly, its use of verified circ shot up 187 percent compared to same period last year. Time decreased its verified circulation by 88 percent and recorded a 2.6 percent spike in paid subscriptions. The Week remained flat with a .2 percent drop in paid subs and no reported verified use.

Out of the top 10 paid and verified circ gainers with more than 100,000 circ, six were below 500,000 circulation; seven below one million. Global Traveller topped the gainers with a 48 percent jump in paid and verified circ.

By Bill Mickey
08/31/2009




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