Magazines' Newsstand Sales Drop, but Subscriptions Hold Steady

Audit Bureau of Circulation Report to Show

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NEW YORK ( -- Magazines have watched their newsstand sales fall all year as high gas prices reduced traffic through checkout lanes and slimmed the wallets of those who were there, but as next Monday's semiannual circulation roundup approaches, there is some good news too. Magazine subscriptions are, with just a few exceptions, embarrassingly cheap. And a tour of the business this week shows that those subscriptions are helping to hold the line on circulation at many magazines.
Hachette Filipacchi's fashion flagship, Elle magazine, lost 6.3% of its single-copy sales but slightly increased its overall paid and verified circulation to 1.08 million for a 0.9% gain.
Hachette Filipacchi's fashion flagship, Elle magazine, lost 6.3% of its single-copy sales but slightly increased its overall paid and verified circulation to 1.08 million for a 0.9% gain.

Newsstand sales fell 8% in the first half across the Hachette Filipacchi portfolio, for example, but paid and verified subscriptions remained essentially flat with a 0.5% gain. Its fashion flagship, Elle magazine, lost 6.3% of its single-copy sales but slightly increased its overall paid and verified circulation to 1.08 million for a 0.9% gain. Many media buyers are going to be watching Monday's report, from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, to see which titles really increased their use of verified circulation -- those copies you see around doctors' offices and hair salons -- to keep their numbers up. Elle's filing to the audit bureau will reassure buyers on that score; it managed to maintain circulation while decreasing its use of verified by 39%.

Single copies out of fashion
By comparison, Conde Nast's Vogue lost 14.8% of its newsstand sales, which contributed to a 6% decline in circulation, according to the figures as filed with the audit bureau. Sibling title Glamour gave up 9.2% of its single-copy sales but did manage a 4.1% overall increase with only a tiny 1.6% increase in verified. Allure fell 9.6% on newsstands but added many traditional subscriptions to achieve a 2.7% bump overall.

Elsewhere at Conde, Vanity Fair defied the market with a 6% gain on newsstands -- thanks in part to a controversial Miley Cyrus photo shoot in the June issue. Conde Nast Traveler fell 5.8% on newsstands but nudged its total up 1.5%. Architectural Digest held the line -- total paid and verified circulation edged up 0.4% -- despite a 12.6% crater in single-copy sales. Conde Nast Portfolio's first report to the audit bureau will show an overall paid and verified circulation of 420,000. About 90,000 copies come from verified, a proportion roughly in line with other Conde Nast launches. Conde Nast's overall circulation is up 5.7% from the first half of 2007.

There were plenty of newsstand winners, of course, which should not be overlooked. Mansueto Ventures increased single-copy sales 25% at Inc. and 24% at Fast Company. Food & Wine, part of American Express Publishing, grew newsstand sales by 4.5% and overall paid and verified circulation by 2.9% to 958,348 -- enough to make the publisher comfortable raising the rate base to 925,000 from 900,000.

Rodale, for its part, pushed single-copy sales up 19.3% at Best Life, up 5.1% at Bicycling, up 4.3% at Runner's World and up 2% at Men's Health despite a cover-price increase. Prevention's newsstand sales fell 9.9%.

Time Inc. generally flat
Across Time Inc.'s big portfolio, newsstand held essentially flat with an overall gain of 0.3%. Some individual titles fell by double-digit margins on the newsstand, including Money (down 15%), Coastal Living (down 17.4%) and This Old House (down 18.8%). But newsstand gainers include People en Espanol (up 19.9%), Sports Illustrated (up 19.1%) and Health (up 10.5%).

Time Inc.'s top line will show an overall 1.5% increase in Monday's report. Powerhouse People, which actually does charge a lot for subscriptions, grew its total paid and verified circulation by 1.7% -- no small feat for a mature title with a large base. All You, sold in Wal-Mart, reported a 31.1% jump to 889,185. Time held flat with a 0.3% decline. Essence slipped 3.5% to a notch above 1 million. The company's average use of verified circulation did grow 3.4% on the back of big increases from Southern Living, All You, Sunset and Sports Illustrated.

Results for Hearst Magazines will show no big gains on the whole but will include newsstand increases for Esquire and House Beautiful despite cover price increases at both. Cosmopolitan is coming in a bit better than flat, up 0.8%, despite a 6.1% newsstand drop. Good Housekeeping is a little short, down 1.5% with a single-copy slide of 13.8%. O, the Oprah Magazine, dipped 1.7% on the whole with a 17.3% newsstand fall, which also include the effects of a price increase.

Harper's Bazaar dropped 8.3% on the newsstand -- including the effects of a one-issue price increase for March -- but lost just 0.7% overall. Redbook is showing the largest slide, down 6.2% overall with its own 17.3% newsstand drop, partly due to a cover price hike.

Saveur suffers, Rachael Ray surges
At Bonnier Corp., Saveur is reporting the biggest decline, a 14.8% drop in total paid and verified circulation, as the title pursued a reduction in its guaranteed circulation. TransWorld Surf will prove its biggest winner with a 10% increase. Monday's report will display plenty of newsstand pain. Six titles -- including Garden Design and Islands -- suffered double-digit declines. But hey, five others won double-digit increases, including heavyweight Field & Stream.

Reader's Digest, which is continuing to manage its guaranteed paid and verified circulation to 8 million from 10 million, is coming in down 15.9% at 8.4 million. The sibling title Every Day With Rachael Ray will show a 6.2% gain on newsstands and a 34.4% increase overall.
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