NEWSSTAND DECLINE DEEPENS FOR MAGAZINES

By Published on .

Winners outnumbered losers-just barely-in the latest round of circulation figures for the second half of 1994. But nobody was overjoyed by the picture that emerged from the Audit Bureau of Circulations and BPA International for the six months ended Dec. 31.

"The tabloids had a horrible performance on the newsstands and the newsweeklies are flat-no growth there," said Daniel Capell, a partner in Vos, Gruppo & Capell, a New York-based consultant and the editor of Capell's Circulation Report.

But there were some shining stars.

"Health and the personal/finance categories continued to do well," Mr. Capell said.

Men's Health was up 37%, including a 13.9% jump on newsstands; on the women's side of the health and fitness picture, Shape was up 7.6%. And Cooking Light, jumped 11.5% overall but scored a 33.8% leap in single-copy sales.

Among the top 200, Worth tossed up the most impressive numbers. The magazine rose 52.5%, including a hefty 28.1% advance on newsstands. Family Fun jumped 25.4%, scoring one of the most impressive gains in the top 200.

Red hot Wired showed circulation of 142,993, a gain of 67.8%. Other high-tech stars included Windows, up 47.4% and GamePro, up 44.7%.

Many publishers are shifting their strategy, trying to raise subscription and single-copy prices while reducing newsstand copies. The gamble is that a decline in sales will be more than offset by the higher prices.

"I'd predict that you are going to see single-copy sales decline a lot more in 1995," said Robert Cohen, a Miami-based circulation consultant.

But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. "In the short run, you're probably going to see more rate base reductions, but that could ultimately lead to healthy circulation in the long run," Mr. Capell said.

Even though TV Guide experienced only a 0.6% drop to 14 million, the weekly has already said it will voluntarily shave another 7% off at midyear to drop its rate base to 13 million.

Single-copy sales continued to absorb some of the worst hits.

The National Enquirer has been dubbed "the bible of the O.J. Simpson trial" by the legions covering the events in Los Angeles. But the distinction didn't help the weekly's newsstand sales, which skidded 9.4% while its less important subscription sales slumped 12.6%. Star, a sister title at American Media, also saw single-copy sales drop 7.2% while total circulation dipped 6.9%.

"From a revenue point of view, we were actually in better shape than a year ago because our newsstand price was more than 14% higher," said Richard Smith, VP-circulation at American Media. To offset postage and paper price increases, the company would probably do a "modest price increase," he said.

Two of the fastest growing titles in terms of percentage gains belonged to Wenner Media. Family Life jumped 174.4% to 240,014-making it the fastest growing title among those tracked by the audit bureau. Wenner's Men's Journal was the third fastest growing with an 82.2% gain in the period. They were sandwiched around Going Bonkers?, up 84.7%; the year and a half old magazine offers a light-hearted take on psychological issues.

The biggest collapses among the ABC magazines were recorded by Honolulu, down 33.7%; Country Journal, down 27.9% and Biker, down 26.8%.

A handful of the top BPA non-paid circulation magazines didn't file reports for the period, including Disney Channel Magazine, Healthy Kids, Your Company and Lamazebaby Magazine.

In this article:
Most Popular