ABC FAS-FAX: More than 50 Percent of Consumer Magazines See Subscription Declines
Fifty-four percent or 348 of the 654 consumer magazines that report their total paid, verified and analyzed non-paid circulation numbers to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, reported decreases for the first six months of this year.
Anne Finn, senior vice president of consumer marketing for Magazine Publishers of American, believes the subscription declines are more or less demonstrative of magazines right-sizing to their rate bases, she believes newsstand declines to be symptomatic of external factors that are beyond the control of magazine publishers. "We had a tough first half of the year in newsstand sales and I think several different factors play into that," she said. "High energy and fuel costs are forcing consumers to make fewer trips to the supermarket or any market for that matter. Consumer confidence is a huge issue, as is war in the Middle East, terrorism and the economy."
As print magazines continue to struggle with readership declines, many publishers are increasing their online and mobile offerings, but Finn believes print will continue to anchor publishing brands. "Consumers are going to consume information in a variety of platforms, magazines being one of them," she said. "I think publishers are working at brand extension and looking at offering their content on multiple platforms, but print is still the focus and the mother of the brand."
Time and Newsweek saw unit sales decline 19 percent. Time recently announced it would try to stop newsstand declines (the magazine averaged 119,466 in newsstand sales in the first half of the year, compared to 157,215 in the same period a year earlier) by moving its on-sale date from Monday to Friday in hopes of appealing to Friday grocery shoppers.
Celebrity weeklies had mixed results in the first half of the year. Unit sales and retail revenue for People, US, Star, In Touch, and Life & Style increased 5 percent. Star’s sister publications, the National Enquirer and Globe, however, saw unit sales fall 18 percent and revenue fall 11 percent.
TV Guide, which switched its publication from a digest-style magazine focused on TV listings, to a full fledged glossy entertainment magazine last year saw its total paid subscriptions fall from 9,073,543 to 3,718,175. The decline was expected by the publication, which slashed its rate base by two-thirds last year to 3.2 million.
Women’s magazines had equally mixed results in total sales with Woman’s Day, Red Book and Ladies Home Journal, all suffering losses, while Vogue and Elle saw increases. Cosmopolitan sales were basically flat and sales of O, the Oprah Magazine fell nearly 20 percent.
Finn believes the cycle will turn and newsstand sales will come back around. "It’s just part of the normal business cycle," she said. "With the celebrity weeklies, I’m not ready to give up on them yet. These are business phases that we have to work through and we’ll be back."
Magazines that scored high in newsstand sales included, Men’s Health, up 10 percent; Vanity Fair, up 17 percent; Soaps in Depth, up 15 percent; The Economist, up 15 percent; Elle, up 18 percent, and National Geographic, up 14 percent.