That's the surprising finding of a study by Samir Husni, a University of Mississippi professor who has been tracking magazine launches since 1985.
"I was surprised sports ended up as the largest category, because in the earlier years it wasn't as big," said Mr. Husni, who has built a business around his "Mr. Magazine" persona. "But the media personalities like the Michael Jordans really spurred a lot of these titles. Also, non-traditional sports, such as skateboarding and wrestling, created new opportunities."
The newest edition of Mr. Husni's Guide to New Consumer Magazines sums up his 15 years of newsstand-gazing. During that period, he tracked 10,201 launches, ranging from Martha Stewart Living to Modern Ferret.
After sports, which tallied 954 launches, the most popular categories were sex (912); crafts, games, hobbies and models (750); special interest (674); and celebrities (594).
The majority of new titles end up in a permanent recycling bin. In order to determine the average number of titles that are still publishing, Mr. Husni considered only those that published four or more times in their launch year. Roughly half of all new magazines die in the first year. And only 16% of the magazines launched in 1985 are still in business today.
Of the 1,827 titles launched with a quarterly or higher frequency from 1985 to 1989, an average of 15.43% are still publishing, Mr. Husni found. Of the 3,510 new titles launched with at least a quarterly frequency from 1990 through '97, an average of 20.75% are still in business. In 1998, 518 new titles were published at least quarterly, and 41.12% are still around.
For his new guide, Mr. Husni picked 30 notable launches of 1999, but decided not to award a "most notable" winner. Among the notable launches of last year were B. Smith Style, Cosmo Girl, National Geographic Adventure, Outdoor Explorer and Talk.
Among the most notable launches of the last 15 years: Cooking Light, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, George, In Style, Martha Stewart Living, Maxim, Men's Health and Wired.