Franchise Issues We Love (And Some We Don’t)
Men may love sports, but if the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is any indication, they love women in bikinis a whole lot more. The annual issue, which comes out every February, outsells regular copies of the magazine on the newsstand anywhere from 10 to 20-times over, depending on the issue.
The February 2006 Swimsuit Issue, for example, sold almost 1.2 million newsstand copies. In the first six months of last year, the next highest newsstand seller was Sports Illustrated’s Superbowl XL issue with 117,057 copies sold, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Franchise issues are often the bread-and-butter of newsstand sales, usually selling anywhere from 1 to 4-times, and in rare cases like the SI Swimsuit Issue, 10 to 20-times the number of copies as regular newsstand issues. And the increased circulation often brings with it increased ad revenue. People uses a ratebase of 3.4 million for regular issues of the magazine, but ups that ratebase to 3.8 million for its 100 (formerly 50) Most Beautiful People issue.
But recent newsstand data shows that franchise issues, though popular, often sell no better than a really good issue of the regular magazine. People’s 100 Most Beautiful People issue sold about 1.9 million single copies in May of last year and its Hottest Bachelor issue in June sold about 1.6 million copies. But the June 19 issue featuring Brad and Angelina’s baby Shiloh bested both franchise issues, selling almost 2.2 million copies on the newsstand.
Figures for Time’s 2006 Person of the Year Issue were not available at presstime, but in 2005, that issue sold 270,000 copies on the newsstand, 125,000 more than its per issue average of 145,079 single-copy sales. However, a July 4, 2005, issue featuring disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff sold nearly as well, with 229,103 copies.
Forbes has a network of franchise issues, including The 100 Best Companies to Work For, the Billionaires issue, the Investment Guide, the Celebrity 100, the Global 2000, and the 400 Richest People in America. The Investment Guide is its biggest seller, with 80,562 single copies sold in June 2006. The Celebrity 100, on the other hand, sold just 29,618 newsstand copies in July 2005.
However, Forbes is both expanding and tweaking its franchise offerings to address a changing marketplace, according to spokesperson Lori Baker. The magazine three years ago introduced the Most Powerful Women issue and shifted the focus of its Celebrity 100 issue from money to power. Also in the last three years, it has morphed the Forbes 500, a list of the 500 most powerful companies in America, to the Forbes Global 2000. "It’s really reflecting the global economy that we’re part of," Baker said. "There really are no more American-only companies out there."
Although the Celebrity 100 issue is one of the smaller franchise issues for Forbes in terms of newsstand sales, it’s one its biggest Web traffic generators, Baker said. "Over the past few years, we’ve had just great amounts of traffic and its turned into this incredible thing on the Web that we’ve expanded and grown so that we’re not just regurgitating the magazine into an online form," she added.
Unique visits to Forbes.com during July, the month in which the Celebrity 100 was released, averaged about 130,000 per day, the third highest month of 2006. Unique visits during the month of December when the popular Investment Guide hits the stands, however, were the lowest of the year, averaging less than 100,000 per day.