Some Consumers May Cut Subscriptions to Save Money

Forrester Research Finds More Plan to Cut Than to Add New Ones

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Magazine readers have been perhaps the best comfort these days for magazine publishers beleaguered by retreating advertisers. "Unlike other mediums, circulations are stable," said Michael Clinton, exec VP, CMO and publishing director at Hearst Magazines, in a refrain that's becoming more common. "Audiences are growing."

But a new survey of American households suggests that paid circulation could slip next year as the recession keeps pressuring people to cut their costs.

Among U.S. consumers who use the web, 72% subscribe to at least one magazine, according to the survey by Forrester Research. Of those, 77% expect no change; that's the good news. But 18% expect to cut back, compared with only 4% who foresee adding subscriptions in the year ahead. Consumer magazines are more vulnerable than business magazines, the research suggests.

"Diehard magazine fans," which Forrester defined as the 38% of online consumers subscribing to three or more titles, are more likely to trim subscriptions. Twenty-two percent of those with three or four subscriptions say they'll cut back. Almost a quarter -- 24% -- of people with five or more subscriptions are planning reductions.

Trouble for all print
Newspapers are poised for a hit too, although the declines they've already suffered should temper next year's blow. Out of the 58% of online adults who say they subscribe to at least one paper for personal use, 10% expect to cut back, Forrester said.

"This data spells trouble for legacy print publishers," said Forrester's report. "Cutbacks in print subscriptions precipitate cutbacks in ad pages, which erodes the primary source of revenue and profitability that publishers are counting on to sustain them as they build their online businesses."

Forrester surveyed 5,000 U.S. households to ask about their plans to maintain, increase or trim their personal and work-related subscriptions.
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