Many titles are sold on the newsstand, but it’s the performance of 10 publications—the top 10 checkout titles—that define the market.

Eight years ago, the top 10 titles accounted for nearly half (46.8
percent) of the unit sales of all audited publications. In the second
half of 2008 the top 10 titles still accounted for about half (46.3
percent) of unit sales for all audited publications.

The unit sales impact of the top 10 titles has remained stable, yet
the makeup, frequency and cover pricing of these publications has
dramatically changed.

A comparison of top the 10 titles from the second half of 2000 to
the second half of 2008 helps illuminate the effect of these changes.
Several distinct developments should be noted:

1. Cover Prices Increased Dramatically
In 2000, eight of
the top 10 titles, were priced below $3. In 2008 only one title was
priced below $2.99 (Woman’s World). The average price of the top 10
titles surged 67.3 percent from $2.02 to $3.38. This compares to more
modest price increase rates of 21.3 percent for other checkout
publications and 20.4 percent for all the other audited titles during
this period.

2. Publication Frequency Increases
In 2000, seven of the
top 10 titles were weekly and three were monthly frequency. Their
average annual frequency was 41 issues. In 2008 only one monthly title
(the mighty Cosmopolitan) remained in the top 10. During this eight
year period the average annual frequency of top 10 titles rose from
41.0 to 47.6 issues—a frequency increase of 16.1 percent.

3. Unit Sales of Top 10 Titles Decline in Equal Proportion to the Market
2000 and 2008, unit sales of the top 10 declined 28.9 percent,
approximately the same rate of sales decline experienced by all other
audited titles.

4. Revenue for Top 10 Titles Rises, All Others Decline
unit sales, the revenue of the top 10 and all other titles diverged.
The revenue of the top 10 rose 18.8, but the revenue of all other
publications declined 12.4 percent.

Lessons Learned from Top 10 Title Sales Trends
There is much to be learned from the changes occurring among the top 10 newsstand titles.

1. Weeklies Are Preferred
At the checkout, weekly
frequency publications now clearly dominate. Among other things the
shift to weeklies has adverse processing and handling ramifications for
wholesalers and retailers.

2. Higher Cover Prices Are the Norm
Although higher cover
prices have undoubtedly precipitated the unit sales decline, they have
become the new checkout sector norm.

3. Checkout Sector Is Zero-Revenue Based
High cover prices
have helped increase revenue for the top 10 publications. Conversely
this has translated into lower revenue for all other titles in the
checkout sector. This helps confirm the belief that the checkout sector
(indeed, probably the entire newsstand market) is zero-revenue based.
That is, individual title revenue can rise or fall, but the
sector/market revenues will remain unchanged.

4. Higher Cover Prices Mean Fewer Multiple Title Purchases
cover prices for the top 10 titles has meant less multiple title
purchases. This has contributed to the unit sales decline.

5. Strong Titles Benefit from Higher Competitive Pricing
titles (number one or number 2 in the category) will benefit from
higher pricing by their competitors. People magazine is a good example.

6. Monthly Frequency Titles Have Been Marginalized at Checkout
the influence of weekly titles has grown, it has adversely affected the
sales of monthly publications, especially the more mature women’s

7. Publications with High Newsstand Circ Ratios Ascend
the top 10 publications have newsstand to subscription circ ratios
greater than 40 percent and high subscription pricing—this was not so
eight years ago. It now appears as if there is no longer room at the
upper echelons of the newsstand market for titles whose circ is
top-heavy with deeply discounted subscriptions.

Top 10 Checkout Titles: 2nd Half 2000
1. People
2. TV Guide
3. National Enquirer
4. Star
5. Woman’s World
6. Cosmopolitan
7. Globe
8. Soap Opera Digest
9. Woman’s Day
10. Family Circle

Top 10 Checkout Titles: 2nd Half 2008
1. People
2. US
3. In Touch
4. Star
5. Woman’s World
6. National Enquirer
7. Cosmopolitan
8. OK! Weekly
9. Life & Style
10. Globe