NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If magazines' recent, atrocious newsstand sales are any indication, this may not be the best time to ask people to pay for new kinds of content. They're already tapped out on established buys such as magazines.
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As a result, magazines' newsstand sales fell 11.1% in the second half of last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a drop that surpasses any in recent memory. Nineteen of the top 25 newsstand sellers posted declines. Only newsweeklies enjoyed a surge, buoyed by the long, but finally complete, presidential campaign.
Across the broader universe of magazines, including those not tracked by the audit bureau, newsstand sales fell 11.7% for the whole year, according to 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.
There's a lot of uncertainty about how much "normalcy" will return after the recession lifts. Newspapers aren't likely to regain their pre-recession levels, before cyclical challenges compounded their struggle.
But magazines' newsstand calamity will probably reverse itself. Newsstand sales recently seemed to find stability 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."
Unless, perhaps, some other medium starts charging for content too.
Single-copy by categoryNewsweeklies were the only bright spot last year
|CELEBRITY||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|
|In Touch Weekly||834,492||1,228,056||-32.1%|
|Life & Style Weekly||461,969||672,463||-31.3|
|NEWSWEEKLIES||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|
|U.S. News & World Report||42,676||33,757||26.4|
|SHELTER||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|
|Better Homes & Gardens||231,333||379,667||-39.1%|
|O at Home||287,500||334,557||-14.1|
|LIFESTYLE||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|
|Martha Stewart Living||326,900||391,416||-16.5|
|O, The Oprah Magazine||626,000||836,770||-25.2|
|FASHION AND BEAUTY||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|
|MEN||SECOND HALF '08||SECOND HALF '07||CHANGE|