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AN EARLY LOOK AT MAGAZINE CIRCULATION REPORT CARDS

Paid Circulation at 'O: The Oprah Magazine' Declines 9.3%

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Magazines’ latest circulation figures aren’t due from the Audit Bureau of Circulations until Feb. 20, but partial figures acquired early by Advertising Age from publishers reveal that while many industry trends are continuing, some surprises are in store.

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One of the biggest percentage losers for the new period, which covers the six months that ended Dec. 31, is one of the industry’s biggest stars, O: The Oprah Magazine, from Hearst Magazines. Its average paid circulation totaled 2.4 million, down 9.3% from the second half of 2004.

Rick Day, consumer marketing director at O, said the magazine engineered the decline through higher subscription pricing to reduce the “bonus circulation” above the magazine’s guaranteed paid circulation of 2.2 million. Such bonus circulation is attractive to advertisers but does not produce extra revenue for publishers.

Fas-Fax report
Next week the Audit Bureau will release its Fas-Fax report, which includes each publisher’s estimate as to how many copies of its titles it has sold over the past six months. The Audit Bureau later audits those reports and then issues confirmation that what the publishers reported was true. These numbers are what publishers said they have reported.

As it has in recent years, the celebrity-weekly pack sunk its teeth deeper into the American heart during the last half of 2005. In Touch Weekly from the Bauer Entertainment Group led that set in percentage gains, garnering almost 1.2 million in average paid circulation for an increase of 15.5% over the second half of 2004. Wenner Media’s bigger Us Weekly racked up nearly 1.7 million in average paid circulation for the second half of 2005, sticking an impressive 12.7% jump over the equivalent period in 2004.

American Media's rate base
American Media’s Star, still growing on the strength of editor in chief Bonnie Fuller’s relaunch, is reporting more than 1.4 million in average paid circulation, up 10% from the prior-year period. Star had promised advertisers paid circulation of 1.45 million, but it and many other titles from American Media are missing rate base as the company adopts stricter Audit Bureau rules earlier than necessary and strips some circulation out of the “paid” column.

In its first statement to the Audit Bureau, American Media’s young Celebrity Living title is reporting average paid circulation of 192,171, beating its rate base of 150,000.

Weekly news magazines seem to be continuing on their plateau -- although it should be noted that they are meandering miles above most magazines. U.S. News & World Report is reporting just more than 2 million in paid circulation, down 1%. “Flat” is the watchword at Newsweek, part of the Washington Post Co., with a little more than 3.1 million in paid circulation for the most recent reporting period, down 0.3% from the prior-year period. Time Inc.’s Time is also expected to report relatively unchanged figures.

The little newsweekly that could
The Week from Dennis Publishing continues to be the inspiring little player in the newsweekly category. It is reporting average paid circulation of 366,758, up 58.3% from the last half of 2005.

Among the apparent winners so far, Rodale’s Best Life is chalking up 333,720 in paid circulation for a gain of 45%. Men’s Health, also from Rodale, is reporting almost 1.8 million in paid circulation, a 6.2% gain.

Some other men’s books stayed relatively flat or grew a little. Hearst’s Esquire is reporting paid circulation of 708,800, down 0.5%. And Men’s Journal from Wenner is reporting paid circulation of 682,502, up 2.7%.

A little cooler at 'Lucky'
Elsewhere, growth is cooling at Conde Nast Publications’ Lucky, the shopping magazine that opened a whole new category back in 2000. It is reporting nearly 1.1 million in paid circulation for a gain of 5.6%. That comes, however, after three years of white-hot growth.

At Hearst, Seventeen is claiming total paid circulation just more than 2 million for the second half of 2005, down 3.6% from about 2.1 million during the second half of 2004. But Marie Claire is reporting second-half circulation of 970,600, up 3.1% from 941,148 in second-half 2004.

And TV Guide is reporting average paid circulation of 4.9 million for the 11 full-sized, new-look issues it published last year. The 15 issues of old-style, digest-sized TV Guide during the period averaged 9.1 million in paid circulation.

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