Newsstand Sales falling – Go buy a magazine

Magazine circulation slips in the final months of 2013

Newsstand Sales falling – Go buy a magazine

Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Newsstand sales were especially hard hit, with some of the biggest titles, such as Cosmopolitan, seeing the steepest declines.

Magazines—at least the ones that arrive in the mail—lost just a little ground in the second half of 2013, as overall circulation for 386 U.S. consumer titles fell 1.7% compared with the year-ago period. Newsstand sales, however, slid 11.1% in the six-month period that ended in December, according to a report released Thursday by the Alliance for Audited Media.

Newsstand sales have long been considered the best gauge of a magazine’s vitality, since publishers can boost subscription numbers by stepping up marketing, for instance, or lowering subscription prices.

The overall circulation figure includes sponsored copies and those distributed to public places like doctors’ offices. Counting only paid subscriptions, circulation was down 1.2%.

The damage on the newsstand was particularly severe for some of the magazine world’s best known titles. Hearst Magazines’ Cosmopolitan, which lost its crown as the top-selling title in the first half of the year, fell to third place as sales plunged 24.8% to 896,000 copies. Time Inc.’s People magazine, in fourth place, was down 14% to 836,000.

Even the new reigning newsstand queen, Bauer Publishing’s Woman’s World, was down 12.7% to 998,000.

Among the few winners were new titles from Hearst: Food Network Magazine, which was in sixth place, with 506,000 copies, up 4.6%; and HGTV Magazine, which was up 15.4% to 358,000.

More and more, publishers dispute the importance of newsstand sales in determining the health of a title, arguing that a range of factors has been depressing the numbers. They include fewer sales outlets, a slowly recovering economy, more competition for consumers’ attention and changes in media distribution, with many readers accessing magazine content online or on their tablets.

In a press release Thursday, Hearst pointed out that Cosmopolitan now has the biggest digital circulation of any women’s monthly magazine, with 236,000 copies. Overall, digital editions were up 37% in the second half, with more than 300 titles reporting a total of 10.8 million digital replica editions, according to AAM. But digital circulation is still tiny for most magazines, comprising just 3.5% of the total.

A recent report by MagNet, a trade group for magazine wholesalers, put some of the blame for falling newsstand sales on publishers, citing an emphasis on “low price subscriptions,” which major publishers have been using to “prop up rate bases as newsstand sales decline.” The rate base is the number of copies guaranteed to advertisers.

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