It’s a fairly common assumption that millennials don’t read print media because they’re all too busy browsing blogs, clicking on Facebook links and watching YouTube videos to crack open a physical magazine. Well, a new study from Condé Nast says young people's magazine readership is actually the highest it's been in decades.
“There’s a misperception about what’s going on with printed magazines,” said Scott McDonald, svp of market research at Condé Nast, who headed a similar study six years ago. “I thought that coming back and redoing the study after six years of this brutal recession, particularly one that’s been very hard on millennials, I would have expected to see more bad news. But what I saw was pretty much the same story as six years ago, and in some cases, actually some improvement. Magazines’ overall readership numbers still get negatively impacted by decline of these enormous magazines like TV Guide and Reader’s Digest, but if you look at it category by category, you get a very different picture.”
Using data from the GfK MRI Survey of the American Consumer, which tracks magazine audiences, McDonald compared different age groups’ readership of specific magazine categories in 1991, 2001 and 2011. He found that in certain categories, 18-to-24-year-olds are reading more magazines than ever before.
Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically “grew out” of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s. Men’s magazines also gained ground with the 18-to-24 set, thanks to the addition of lad mags like Maxim and the “phenomenal growth” of male fitness titles such as Men’s Health, said McDonald. The biggest growth in the past 10 years was in the celebrity category, which has more than doubled its readership among young people.
For certain magazine categories, however, technological and cultural change has had a negative effect. Women’s service magazines have lost ground among all age groups since 1991, especially 18-to-24-year-olds, whose readership is half of what it was 20 years ago. McDonald attributed the decline in service magazines to higher levels of education and changing cultural roles of women. “Traditional women’s service magazines assumed that women were at home taking care of the kids and being homemakers, and weren’t also working,” said McDonald. “That certainly hasn’t been true for a while.”
As millennials turn to the Internet for news, weekly newsmagazines also have lost half their young readers in the past 20 years. Yet that same trend hasn’t affected business titles, whose readership among young people has grown slightly since 2001. “It could be that the category is figuring out a new formula,” explained McDonald, “like a new point of view, more in-depth analysis or just helping people figure out that information on the Internet can be iffy.”