ABC: Celeb Weeklies Hardest Hit for Single-Copy Sales

With newsstand sales challenged across the board, young celeb weeklies that rely heavily on single-copy buyers are taking the brunt of the hit, the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ newly released circ figures for the first half of ’09 show.
OK! Weekly’s total paid and verified circ declined 10.6 percent to 809,292, leading the title to miss its rate base by nearly 100,000 copies. On the heels of that news, the Northern & Shell title said it would cut its rate base 11 percent to 800,000, retroactive to its July 6 issue.
OK! pointed out that it’s now profitable and is reducing its use of unprofitable circulation sources. And, following whispers that it would bolster its lifestyle content, the title announced it had signed reality star Kim Kardashian as a contributing beauty editor.
But the retreat is another black eye for the British import, which has had a string of high-level personnel changes, reports of financial losses and speculation that it would fold ever since it was launched four years ago.
Bauer’s In Touch also had a challenging first half. Total circ was down 16.2 percent to 800,519, just barely above its 800,000 rate-base guarantee. A rep said In Touch was staying put on rate base.
Sibling pub Life & Style recently raised its rate base 12.5 percent to 450,000, but that move came only after the rate base was slashed 21 percent last year, to 550,000.
The category’s challenges weren’t limited to the smaller titles. Ten-ton category gorilla People magazine’s circ was down by 4.9 percent to 3.6 million. American Media Inc.’s Star declined 12.3 percent to 1.2 million. Wenner Media’s Us Weekly, however, gained 2.1 percent to 1.9 million.
Meanwhile, these are good times for magazines with a healthy lifestyle positioning, which had some of the biggest percent increases of all consumer titles. Among them were Rodale’s Women’s Health, up 30 percent to 1.5 million; Reader’s Digest Association’s Taste of Home Healthy Cooking, up 39.4 percent to 759,472; and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s Body + Soul, up 12.2 percent to 648,990.
Across the ABC’s 521 measured titles, total paid and verified circulation declined 1.2 percent to 339.6 million in the first half of 2009.
But single-copy sales declined more sharply than they had in the previous year, likely reflecting delivery problems in the first half of 2009, when leading wholesaler Anderson News went out of business. In the January-June, newsstand sales fell 12.4 percent. In the previous two six-month periods, newsstand sales declined 11.1 percent and 6.3 percent, per the ABC.