Newsstand Still Challenging for Many

Price Increases Hurt Some Magazines, Help Others

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Many magazines continued to struggle on newsstands in the first half of this year, which is bad news for any publisher whose advertisers believe single-copy sales reveal a title's vitality. But it's great news for titles such as Men's Health, Wired and The Economist, which beat the retail headwinds.
Price still matters on the newsstand, so some titles' single-copy losses -- and gains -- aren't so impressive.
Price still matters on the newsstand, so some titles' single-copy losses -- and gains -- aren't so impressive. Credit: AP

Readers showed less interest in buying copies of magazines across the spectrum, according to publishers' estimates and figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations in advance of its Fas-Fax magazine report on Aug. 13. Although many posted subscription growth, newsstand sales fell by double-digit percentages at books including Marie Claire, down by 20.2%; Fortune, down 11.4%; Redbook, off 12.9%; W, down 23.1%; and Vanity Fair, down 15.7%.

There were smaller single-copy contractions at magazines including Us Weekly, Country Living, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Country Living, InStyle, Rolling Stone and Essence. Stuff, which is getting folded into Maxim sometime after their publisher gets a new owner next week, tanked 33.9%.

Rodale standouts
In this environment, improving newsstand sales by any margin can make a magazine stands out. Men's Health, for example, is happy to point out its 1.1% improvement. "Smart marketers are judging magazines by vitality at newsstand," said Jack Essig, publisher of Men's Health. (We'll ask him again if the newsstand turns against him.) But Rodale siblings Bicycling, Runner's World and especially Prevention also improved single-copy sales; there may be something to this "fit is the new rich" business after all.

Cover price, of course, matters a lot on the newsstand. That's why we can cut Allure, for example, some slack for its 13.8% single-copy drop -- it raised its price to $3.50 from $2.99 last August. And some of Cosmo's slip can be attributed to a price hike that affected four of the six issues in the first half.

Pricing is why the incredible, continuing growth of Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly, up 10.6%, and Life & Style Weekly, up around 7%, isn't quite as impressive as it could be. Both are still priced at $1.99, much to the consternation of distributors who want fatter margins.

Biggest bragging rights
Higher-priced double-digit newsstand winners, who get the biggest bragging rights for the next six months, include Wired, House Beautiful, Lucky, Details and Veranda. The Economist shot up 10.6% on newsstands despite a $1 price increase to $5.99 in January.

Some magazines wouldn't release their circulation figures before the Audit Bureau's report comes out on Aug. 13, so keep an eye out for the update.
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