THE DIGITAL GLIMMER OF HOPE: Magazine circulation figures for the first half were released Tuesday and the declines just keep coming, with some of the country’s top 25 magazines posting double-digit drops from the same time last year, including Glamour, which fell nearly 30 percent in single-copy sales.
But there’s a silver lining (phew!). The sale of digital editions, or replicas, has nearly doubled from the same period last year to an average of 10.2 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. They now account for 3.3 percent of total circulation.
This story first appeared in the August 7, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
An encouraging case study is newsweeklies, which have not benefited from a ton of good news lately, but are reaping the most benefit from digital editions. Time magazine was losing readers up until the end of 2012 — AAM’s second-half report showed a drop of 0.5 percent in overall circulation, and 23 percent in single-copy sales as compared to the same period in 2011. But in July 2012, the Apple newsstand started selling Time Inc.’s digital editions, and so far into 2013, Time has sold an average of 44,700. Overall circulation at Time is up to 3.3 million, and single-copy sales are up to an average of about 58,000, an increase of 1.2 percent. Corporate-wide, Time Inc. claimed 2.8 million subscribers who get digital editions as a bundle with their print subscriptions, and about 500,000 who are digital-only.
Likewise, New York magazine, which revamped its digital edition in March, increased circulation by 0.9 percent to 409,000, and single copies, thanks to digital, by 23 percent. The New Yorker’s circulation is up 1.2 percent to about 1.05 million, helped by a nearly 18 percent spike in single-copy sales.
The exception is Bloomberg Businessweek, which has made provocative, conceptual covers meant to stand out at the newsstand a signature. But circulation, at nearly 991,000, is down 0.3, and newsstand, which like at all newsweeklies is a small fraction of the overall circulation makeup, fell 6.3 percent. People magazine was down at the check-out line, and by double digits, too, nearly 12 percent, while circulation fell 0.6 percent. Celebrity weeklies in general, like Us Weekly, InTouch and Life & Style, saw declines.
Overall, magazines lost about 1 percent in total circulation, with newsstand sales dropping about 10 percent.
Among the top 25 largest magazines, Good Housekeeping registered the biggest circulation jump, about 1.2 percent, to 4.4 million, and Ladies’ Home Journal was up 0.8 percent, or 3.2 million. Reader’s Digest and National Geographic had the sharpest drops, 6 and 5.4 percent, respectively.
Fashion books had a grim half at the newsstand. Cosmopolitan, ranked second-largest magazine by single-copy sales, declined 24 percent, while the drop at Glamour was 28.8 percent and 19 percent at InStyle. O, the Oprah Magazine sold about 22.7 percent fewer copies, while the percentage drop was 10.4 percent for Vogue and 11 percent for Vanity Fair. Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, which are not among the top 25 by single-copy sales, declined 12.5 and 10 percent, respectively. Game Informer is the top digital magazine, with nearly 3 million replicas, followed by Reader’s Digest and Cosmopolitan, which knocked Maxim out of the top three.