Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

No big deal: Magazine circulation falls (again)

Posted on | August 11, 2010 | No Comments

The sky isn’t falling, really, even though the Audit Bureau of Circulation reports that overall subscriptions for magazines are down 2.27 percent.

Some big titles took it on the chin, to be sure: Playboy (-34%), Reader’s Digest (-25%). Neither of those tumbles is a head-scratcher.

But overall, circulation (paid and verified) is 313 million. That’s a lotta eyeballs.

What’s more, the ABC is improving how it quantifies digital versions of magazines.

The old standards have always required that in order to be considered as part of a periodical’s circ, the e-paper version must include an exact replica of a print edition’s full editorial content and advertising. The change is that an e-paper edition no longer needs to be presented in a layout identical to the print version. Replica digital editions will continue to be included in a magazine’s circulation guarantee, or rate base.

One possible lesson in the latest ABC numbers: Total paid subs were down 1.96 %, but total single-copy sales fell 5.6 %. If you assume that subscribers are pre-disposed to re-sign when the time comes, this  newsstand trend suggests that magazine covers — whether that’s subject matter, cover design or overall theme — aren’t cutting the mustard for readers.

Build a good issue, and they’ll read. It’s a much more competitive landscape today, and editors need to step it up. But go easy on the sizzle. Readers respond to well-told, well-packaged stories, not flash.

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