Defying Magazine Trend, Cosmo Nudges Its Big Rate Base North

Newsstand Sales Still Cosmo's Most Important Source of Circulation

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NEW YORK ( -- Hearst's Cosmopolitan is increasing the paid circulation guarantee it gives advertisers by 100,000 copies, to 3 million copies from 2.9 million, in a move that defies the trend of shrinking circulations at the largest magazines.

For decades magazine publishers chased the largest possible circulations -- offering potential subscribers vanishingly cheap subscription prices and paying heavy costs for paper, printing and delivery -- because big advertisers were drawn to the biggest audiences. But costs and competition from new media have both increased, leading many of the biggest titles to rethink that approach.

Magazines that cut their circulation guarantees, called rate base, in recent years include TV Guide, Time, Reader's Digest, Playboy, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Prevention, OK, Outdoor Life, Ski, Skiing, Star and Woman's Day. Most recently Meredith said in early July that it will chop rate base by 16% at Ladies' Home Journal, to 3.2 million from 3.8 million, and by 11% at Traditional Home, to 850,000 from 950,000. Meredith said it would test higher subscription and newsstand prices for both titles, a bid to collect more revenue from readers and to rely a little less on advertising.

Cosmo hasn't relied on subscriptions as much as most other magazines do. Even though newsstand sales only represented 58% of Cosmo's paid circulation in the second half of last year, down from 67% five years earlier, most magazines overwhelmingly rely on subscriptions.

Cosmo's increase is modest in percentage terms, good for a 3.4% boost, but it stands out.

"It's about newsstand for us," said Donna Kalajian Lagani, senior VP and publisher of Cosmo. "We sell about 430,000 copies through Walmart every single month. They're a nice retailer to have. They have increased our pockets, not within the last year but within the last year and a half. Clearly having that great distribution right at the top of the rack is very beneficial."

Cosmo averaged paid and verified circulation above 3 million in the first half of this year, up nearly 5% overall and up nearly 2% on newsstands, according to the magazine. Industry-wide circulation figures will be released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations on August 9.

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