Consumer Magazines' Newsstand Sales Plunge 11%

Single-Copy Expert: 2008 Second-Half Results 'Worst That I've Seen'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Supersized gas prices followed by a roaring recession tore a chunk out of magazines' newsstand sales last year, according to a new report showing that single-copy sales fell 11.1% in the second half.

Cosmo
Top-selling Cosmo was down 6.2% from the second half of 2007.
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Nineteen of the top 25 newsstand sellers posted declines in the second half of 2008, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, including top-selling Cosmopolitan, down 6.2% from the second half of 2007. Magazines about the home, unsurprisingly, tanked during the real-estate meltdown.

In a reversal of recent years' results, however, newsweeklies shone on the newsstand, benefiting from interest in the election. Newsweek, Time and U.S. News all increased newsstand by double digits.

Some celebrity weeklies, meanwhile, fell dramatically: 32% at In Touch, 31% for Life & Style, 21% for Us Weekly and 11% for OK. Time Inc.'s People, on the other hand, found another 3% growth.

The newsstand plunge also included a 25% fall for O, the Oprah Magazine, a 22% decline for Woman's Day and a 20% drop for Family Circle.

The broader universe of magazines, including those that aren't members of the Audit Bureau, declined 11.7% in 2008 as a whole, according to today's issue of The New Single Copy, a newsletter published by circulation veteran John Harrington. The declines got worse as the year went on, from a 7.4% drop in the first quarter to a 14.9% plunge in the fourth.

"It's the worst that I've seen," Mr. Harrington said today.

Newsstand sales had recently seemed to find their new level after many years of decline, only to be depressed anew by the recession. "It had kind of leveled and kind of stabilized for three or four years," Mr. Harrington said. "So this appears to be not so much a trend that has to do with distribution changes or demographics or something else. If there's a recovery, you'd hope that it at least moves back to 2007 or 2006 levels."

"The real concern would be if every other product line in the world was doing well," he added. "But they're not."

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