Where Are All the Affluent Readers? In the Sky

In-Flight Titles Among the Few to Break $100,000 in Income

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Want to reach affluent households? Try the in-flight magazines. In an annual rite of spring, magazine publishers and media buyers are spending this week poring over newly released measures of their titles' total readership, household income and readers' ages by Mediamark Research. And two of the titles boasting the highest household income are United's Hemispheres with $119,588 and American Airlines' American Way with $100,026.
Two of the titles boasting the highest household income are United's 'Hemispheres' with $119,588 and American Airlines' 'American Way' with $100,026.
Two of the titles boasting the highest household income are United's 'Hemispheres' with $119,588 and American Airlines' 'American Way' with $100,026.

Southwest Spirit also scores one of the highest household incomes, with $93,916, while Continental's in-flight audience has household income of $86,867 for all adults (but gets over $100,000 mark for men, at $104,100).

Only a handful crack the $100,000 or more mark, such as both Dow Jones publications Barron's ($110,562) and Wall Street Journal ($118,940), as well as The Economist ($107,024). Time Inc.'s Real Simple readers have a surprising amount of money with which to simplify their lives, $92,438 annual household income for all adults ($115,234 for its male readers). That outpaces both Martha Stewart Living's $68,020 household income and the $66,981 income of readers of Hearst's O, The Oprah Magazine.

Higher income, younger readers
But the biggest winners appeared to be Time Inc.'s People and Hearst Magazines' Marie Claire, which could boast of boosting household income, delivering younger readers and expanding their total audiences. (Marie Claire's performance may be cold comfort to Leslie Jane Seymour, who was replaced as editor in chief there just last month.)

Other MRI results upend some dramatic findings from last fall's round of research.

Last November, for example, Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly surged to the top of the celebrity-weekly category in terms of average household income, at $66,180, beating not just Time Inc.'s People and Wenner Media's Us Weekly, but also high-end titles like Vogue from Conde Nast Publications. The new round of stats shows that In Touch household income has dropped to $63,723, just south of Us Weekly readers' household income -- $63,920. For Us Weekly, though, the victory is bittersweet -- this spring's income figure is nearly 3.5% lower than last spring's $66,219. (For its part, Vogue posted average household income of $58,343, down 4.2% from $60,892, though its total audience grew nearly 10% to 10.7 million.)

Gains at 'People'
People readers have average household incomes of $63,264, a slight improvement over last spring's $63,114. And readers of Star from American Media have average household incomes at the low end of the pack at $52,334, but that's a 15.9% improvement over spring 2005, suggesting the work of American Media Editorial Director Bonnie Fuller, whose contract is up this summer, continues to pay dividends.

The celebrity weeklies all expanded their audiences, perhaps most notably at People, which improved to 40.9 million for a 3.5% gain on its already giant base. Us Weekly, the next closest, improved 25% on a smaller base to reach a total audience of 10.7 million. Publishers are quick to point out that lower household income levels can indicate that new younger readers have entered the mix, something that advertisers admire perhaps as much as disposable income.

Conde Nast's GQ, for example, saw household income fall 7% to $64,155 -- but a spokesman noted that its readers' median age fell 5% since last spring, to 33. GQ readers remained more affluent than readers of Hearst's Esquire and Dennis Publishing's Maxim and Stuff, but not FHM any more--that title increased household income 10% to $70,086. But Men's Journal from Wenner led the men's books with a median household income of $74,693. By total audience, Maxim, GQ, Stuff and FHM all posted increases, but Esquire lost almost 11% of its audience from this point last year.

Traditional women's service books like Better Homes & Gardens from Meredith Corp. and Good Housekeeping from Hearst continued to see total audiences erode, and the newsweeklies' challenges were made clear again, as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report all saw declines in total audience. That audience drop at Time will be one problem placed squarely in the lap of newly appointed Managing Editor Richard Stengel when he assumes his new post June 15.

Correction: This article as originally published said household income for FHM was lower than GQ's. The correct household income figure has been added.
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