Subscriptions set record pace for magazines

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Although industry observers predicted the numbers of subscriptions sold would begin to decline in the wake of lawsuits against sweepstakes companies, the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations indicate 1999 was a record year for subscription gains.

Magazine subscriptions overall rose 63% in the second half of 1999 vs. 1998, growth not seen since 1993, according to Dan Capell, publisher of Capell's Circulation Report. Mr. Capell suggested publishers are turning to more expensive sources, such as Internet and credit card-based services, which may have eased blows from the sweepstakes scandals.

Most women's service titles struggled on newsstands but remained steady in subscriptions. Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens was flat in overall circulation, while Ladies' Home Journal was off 1.1%. In single-copy sales, Better Homes & Gardens was off 2.8% to 391,000, and Ladies' Home Journal fell 22.4% to 436,666; subscriptions were up 0.1% and 1.9%, respectively. Hachette Filipacchi's Woman's Day slipped 8.9% on stands to 744,625, but saw subscriptions grow 9% to 2,536,284. Total circulation was flat.

Gruner & Jahr USA's McCall's was up only 0.1%, and Family Circle flat. McCall's showed single-copy growth of 4.3% to 464,000, while subscriptions remained flat at 3,744,988. Family Circle was off in newsstand sales 6.7% to 1,847,557, while subscriptions grew 4.3% to 3,155,318.

Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping was flat overall, with single-copy sales down 22.4% to 436,666 and subscriptions up 1.3% to 3,378,069.

Redbook, which dropped its rate base from 2.8 million to 2.25 million in July, experienced losses across the board: Total circulation was down 21.5%, newsstand sales declined 26.4% to 528,130 and subscriptions fell 19.9% to 1,722,132. Publisher Jayne Jamison said 1999 numbers fell because the magazine ceased to rely on stamp sheets, which drew the majority of Redbook's fiftysomething readership.


Newsweeklies saw newsstand growth, but sluggish subscriptions. Single-copy sales for Time grew 36.8% to 232,641, Newsweek was up 21.7% to 191,419 and U.S. News & World Report rose 24.4% to 57,760. Subscriptions at Time were flat at 3,890,058, U.S. News gained only 0.1% to 2,137,908, and Newsweek dipped 1.3% to 2,137,908. Overall, Time showed a 1.5% gain, Newsweek was flat and U.S. News moved up a modest 0.1%.

Circulation chart-toppers showed continued decline from the first half. TV Guide was down 11.6%, with single-copy sales dropping 24% and subscriptions 8.6%. Reader's Digest fell 8.8%, with single-copy sales flat and subscription sales down 9.3%. National Geographic maintained its rate base at 8.5 million and saw only a slight drop in total paid (-1.1%) and subscription sales (-2.3%). Single-copy sales grew a dramatic 49.9% to 286,416.


Dennis Publishing's Maxim, which topped the ABC growth charts with a total circulation rise of 126.7%, attributed much of its success to its subscriptions, which increased 102.3% to 850,143.

Total paid circulation was up in most other men's titles, including GQ (+6.9%), Details (+2.9%), Esquire (+1.9%), Men's Journal (+3.6%), and Men's Fitness (+51.1%), mostly thanks to subscriptions.

Rodale's Men's Health showed declines overall of 1.1% as well as single-copy sales, down 5.2% to 407,479. Subscriptions were flat.

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