Magazines Slow Their Losses at Newsstand

Real Simple, Oprah, Vanity Fair and Others Show Gains

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Consumers continued to cut back on purchases at magazine newsstands in the second half of last year, but publishers managed to slow the rate of attrition, according to the semi-annual circulation report released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Credit: AP
The second half of 2009 saw newsstand sales fall 9.1% from the second half of the year before, subscriptions slip 1.1% and verified copies decline 5.1%. Total circulation slipped 2.2%.

Newsstand sales are closely watched for suggestions about consumer demand for individual titles and magazines as a whole. Subscriptions provide the overwhelming majority of magazines' circulation, but aren't as sensitive because they last a year or more and typically don't cost much money. Verified circulation can include copies that publishers send to public places such as doctor's offices or hair salons.

Newsstand declines had been getting worse -- progressing from a 6.3% slide in the first half of 2008, compared with the same period the year prior, to an 11.1% drop in the second half of 2008, and then to a 12.4% descent in the first half of 2009. So the latest newsstand drop, even though it's significant, presents a welcome return to single-digit declines.

"It continues to be a challenging time for consumer magazines," said Ken Godshall, exec VP-consumer marketing at industry trade group Magazine Publishers of America. "The main macro piece of hope is the fact that the decline in newsstand sales seems to be abating. So we're hopeful that the recession is gradually abating and that consumer magazines will be getting better on the newsstand."

Among the top 25 newsstand sellers tracked by the audit bureau, only six showed gains: O, The Oprah Magazine; Real Simple; Vanity Fair; Us Weekly; People StyleWatch; and Seventeen. Life & Style Weekly's newsstand was unchanged.

The decline in subscriptions, which typically increase a bit or hold even, is small enough to be considered "fairly flat," Mr. Godshall said.

Top 25 U.S. Consumer Magazines by Single-Copy Sales

PUBLICATION 6 MONTHS ENDING 12/31/09 6 MONTHS ENDING 12/31/08 % CHANGE
Cosmopolitan 1,753,368 1,779,097 -1.45%
People 1,325,330 1,472,149 -9.97%
Woman's World 1,168,958 1,228,988 -4.88%
First 1,041,011 1,112,125 -6.39%
Us Weekly 812,089 796,669 1.94%
In Touch Weekly 746,973 834,492 -10.49%
Family Circle 715,000 789,500 -9.44%
In Style 689,705 740,384 -6.84%
O, the Oprah Magazine 662,304 625,961 5.81%
Glamour 587,677 612,000 -3.97%
Lindy's Football Annuals 580,509 616,359 -5.82%
Star Magazine 574,927 617,096 -6.83%
National Enquirer 562,292 620,100 -9.32%
People Stylewatch 536,934 527,000 1.89%
Woman's Day 469,068 505,192 -7.15%
Life & Style Weekly 461,958 461,969 0.00%
Men's Health 438,238 508,518 -13.82%
All You 432,801 437,385 -1.05%
Vanity Fair 421,833 401,298 5.12%
Real Simple 411,705 387,800 6.16%
OK! Weekly 404,423 490,417 -17.53%
Good Housekeeping 395,289 570,789 -30.75%
Seventeen 392,262 391,776 0.12%
Every Day With Rachael Ray 367,744 379,200 -3.02%
Weight Watchers 364,396 372,039 -2.05%

Top 25 U.S. Consumer Magazines by Total Paid and Verified Circulation

PUBLICATION 6 MONTHS ENDING 12/31/09 6 MONTHS ENDING 12/31/08 % CHANGE
AARP the Magazine 24,371,637 24,349,637 0.09%
AARP Bulletin 24,042,603 24,500,078 -1.87%
Better Homes and Gardens 7,621,786 7,659,823 -0.50%
Reader's Digest 7,099,558 8,168,667 -13.09%
Good Housekeeping 4,652,904 4,684,812 -0.68%
National Geographic 4,495,931 5,060,377 -11.15%
Woman's Day 3,966,414 3,920,867 1.16%
Ladies' Home Journal 3,858,773 3,840,645 0.47%
Family Circle 3,823,253 3,914,927 -2.34%
Game Informer Magazine 3,805,038 3,517,598 8.17%
People 3,613,902 3,691,819 -2.11%
Time 3,329,429 3,360,135 -0.91%
Taste of Home 3,215,228 3,202,493 0.40%
Sports Illustrated 3,201,524 3,218,133 -0.52%
Cosmopolitan 3,001,894 2,926,683 2.57%
Prevention 2,900,193 3,339,616 -13.16%
Southern Living 2,855,973 2,834,589 0.75%
AAA Via 2,767,064 2,807,830 -1.45%
Maxim 2,513,734 2,521,710 -0.32%
O, the Oprah Magazine 2,479,722 2,365,334 4.84%
AAA Living 2,462,789 2,464,829 -0.08%
Glamour 2,448,119 2,290,452 6.88%
TV Guide Magazine 2,416,620 3,256,962 -25.80%
Remedy/Remedy MD 2,373,205 1,959,801 21.09%
AAA Going Places 2,354,779 2,561,201 -8.06%
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations. Preliminary figures -- subject to audit.
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