Once again this year we decided to weigh the September issues. Without access to ad page data, book size becomes an increasingly more important indicator than in years past. And this year, the indicator is not good. September was always the one time when these publications truly believed big is beautiful, but they are starting to become as petite as those who grace their covers.
To conduct this research we went out and procured the magazines the old fashioned way—on the newsstand. Here’s the rather disturbing thing: they weren’t all that easy to find. We visited a few different newsstands, asked the clerks about them, and were met with a blank stares. It wasn’t until we visited a major book retailer were we able to purchase all nine titles. Perhaps that alone is a telling enough indicator that the September issues don’t carry the weight they once did. Nevertheless, we still walked out of the store with nine magazines that weighed in at nearly 15 pounds (plus we got a really cool commemorative tote for buying Vogue). Still, that’s a loss of nearly five cumulative pounds versus last year. Nobody will congratulate these titles for their dramatic weight losses.
The data in the graphic speaks for itself. That is, every single issue we measured last year shrunk this year. Not a single title remained flat or grew. Even the powerhouse Vogue lost five ounces over the previous year and its spine shrunk two millimeters. To put that into better context, PeopleStyle only weighs nine ounces total.
We wish there was a positive spin here, but there’s really not, at least not in print—print being the keyword. We did talk to a number of publishers and they indicated that the magazine is just one channel for the brands and their partners are leveraging for the perennial fall fashion season. So what can’t be reflected here is what types of integrated buys were built around these issues, with video programming, events and other products. So while this data is bleak, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the total state of magazine media. But it still shouldn’t be discounted.
Each magazine was weighed on two scales to confirm accuracy. Weights were rounded to the nearest ounce. Additionally, each spine was measured in the middle of the book and rounded to the nearest millimeter. Because trim sizes and paper stock are not uniform, we combined weight and spine thickness measurements to create an overall score to even the playing field.
This story originally appeared in Folio:‘s sister publication, min.