Monday, February 11, 2008

Weeklies Still Turning in Strong Circ Performance

Weeklies Still Turning in Strong Circ Performance
Audit Bureau Releases Latest Magazine Sales Figures

By Nat Ives Published: February 11, 2008 NEW YORK ( -- The new magazine circulation figures being released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations have as much complicated action as a three-ring circus. In the center ring, the celebrity tabloids prove that there's a lot of life left in at least certain kinds of weeklies. Everybody has raised their cover price since the last circulation numbers, but some kept newsstand sales rising anyway.

People magazine reported average paid and verified circulation of 3.6 million for the second half of last year, 3.5% under the second half of 2006. Us Weekly, from Wenner Media, reported average paid and verified circulation of 1.9 million, up 10.1% over the half the year before, and newsstand sales up 2.7%. OK also reported average circulation of 935,378, up 23.5% from second-half 2006, and a newsstand gain of 7.1%, partly on the strength of its exclusive cover story about the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy.

Others reported fall-offs in single-copy sales but pinned the blame on price hikes and other factors aside from the titles themselves. Newsstand faces more obstacles"Newsstand is still a very hotly contested space overall," said Paul Caine, president of Time Inc. Entertainment Group, which includes People. "Most magazines don't have to worry as much about newsstand as us. For those properties out there that are newsstand reliant, there are many more factors involved than the vitality of the title. There's gas prices, shopping, the economy -- typically not the same factors that apply to the subscription side of the business." "In the weekly category we all continue to compete in right now, there's been no sign of any fatigue by the consumer," Mr. Caine added.

"All signs are pointing to continued growth." People, Time Inc.'s crown jewel, reported average paid and verified circulation of 3.6 million for the second half of last year, 3.5% under the second half of 2006. Mr. Caine said the most recent figure would have been higher but for 4 million in sales from other People products, such as People Style Watch, People Books and People Country. His rivals at Bauer Publishing have just decided to cut its paid guarantees to 1 million from 1.2 million at In Touch Weekly and to 550,000 from 700,000 at Life & Style Weekly. Although the company signaled some embarrassment last week by burying that news in a press release titled "Bauer Publishing Moves to #1 Position in Magazine Retail Sales," it claims to be happy. "Overall we are pleased with our newsstand sales and solid sell-through," said Ian Scott, president of Bauer Advertising Sales, in the release, which also neglected to mention the departure that day of Life & Style's publisher to join Maxim as an associate publisher. "Fall-off in newsstand sales was anticipated and planned for -- any product or service which raises its prices by more than 50% will expect some attrition.

This brings our circulation to its natural level and allows us to cater to our core buyers who are willing to pay more for the product." BusinessWeek, Foreign Affairs American Media's Star, which already cut its rate base 10% to 1.35 million last July, reported average paid and verified circulation of 1.4 million across the second half, down 11.3% from second-half 2006. But celebrity weeklies aren't the only kind; BusinessWeek tacked on a modest 1.3% gain in the second half of last year, while newsstand jumped 9.3% on title's redesign. If you're overdosing on shallow celebrity news just reading this article, let us at least also inform you that Foreign Affairs is reporting average paid and verified circulation up 4.3% from the second half of the year earlier.

And there are other winners in the latest circulation report. Shelter books did well for the most part, either by expanding circulation or reducing their use of verified public-place copies, which advertisers don't always covet as much as the copies people sought out to buy. Conde Nast's Domino continued to grow, for example, adding 22.8% to its paid and verified average for a total of 677,852. And Home, part of Hachette, lost 9% partly because it achieved a 60.7% reduction in verified circulation. Sibling Metropolitan Home gave up 7.8% as it, too, cut its use of verified circulation and actually pulled out a gain on newsstands. Hearst's Good Housekeeping saw its paid and verified average slip 2.3%. We won't get numbers on Martha Stewart's Blueprint magazine, however; that recent launch got killed partly for want of high-end advertisers.

Mixed results for cooking magsThe still-young
Every Day with Rachael Ray, which had slowed its schedule of rate-base increases for a time, posted an impressive 67.4% gain in the half for an average paid and verified total of nearly 1.7 million. Some other cooking titles produced mixed results: Bon Appetit held steady with a 1.1% gain; Gourmet slipped 3.1%. The titles that Bonnier Corp. bought from Time Inc. began to show signs of improving under their new owners. Field & Stream posted a 10.2% increase in paid and verified circulation despite a 40.6% cut in the verified piece.

And Popular Science eked out a 4.1% increase in its paid and verified average while achieving a 71% reduction in verified. At Conde Nast, Vanity Fair turned around its ad sales problems last year, but now circulation is slipping: it fell 6.3% on a 12.8% decline at newsstand and a 2.7% decline in paid subscriptions and verified circulation. Newsstand suffered partly because Vanity Fair couldn't come up with a cover to sell as well as that Suri Cruise cover in October 2006. Disappointment for men's magazinesGQ, Conde's stalwart for men, fell 9.1% despite a 7.3% newsstand increase. Sibling Details was flat by all measures. Hearst's Esquire gained 1.7% while losing 6.4% on the newsstand after a price increase to $3.99 from $3.50. Men's Health, part of Rodale, is reporting average paid and verified circulation of 1,804,949 -- somehow just 28 copies apart from the 1,804,921 it reported a year prior. Best Life, a Rodale title for a slightly older crowd, chalked up a 16.8% gain. Maxim was flat at 1.9% over the second half of 2006. Business magazines kept fighting the good fight -- and a fight it is -- for their share of readers. As noted above, BusinessWeek gained 1.3%.

Fast Company and Inc., both part of Mansueto Ventures, showed flat overall results. Wired, a new member of Conde's business group that considers the business books its main competitors, posted a nice 7.7% increase. (Forbes and Fortune did not respond to requests for their circulation figures.) Flat or slight growth could have been a category of its own, arriving at titles from Elle to New York, Parenting to Real Simple (up 1.3%), and Glamour to Seventeen, both up 2.3%. Flat-to-barely-reduced circulation was an indiscriminate visitor as well, touching Cosmopolitan (down 1.5%), The New Yorker (down 0.5% as newsstand fell 9.3% on a cover-price increase), Skiing (down 1.7%), Architectural Digest (down 0.7%) and Vogue (down 0.7%).

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