Another Dismal First Half for Magazines

Newsstand sales estimated to be down 11%

Royal wedding-related sales notwithstanding, the first half is turning out to be another disaster for magazine newsstand sales, according to Magazine Information Network, a clearinghouse for retail sales.

MagNet reported U.S. unit sales were down 11 percent to 354 million year-over-year. Dollar sales slipped almost as much, by 8.7 percent to $1.6 billion. MagNet attributed the decline to the sluggish economy and closing of Borders bookstores, among other factors.

The figures come a few days before the Audit Bureau of Circulations is slated to release publishers’ circulation statements covering the first half.

The decline would have been much worse if not for William and Kate’s wedding. MagNet estimated earlier that royal wedding-themed covers generated $13 million in retail sales, mostly benefiting celebrity weeklies.

That said, celeb weeklies, a key part of newsstand sales, are expected to have contributed much to the dismal first half. One of them, OK! Weekly, has already slashed its rate base for the second half, following soft newsstand sales.

The pain wasn’t limited to the celebrity category. Among other big newsstand sellers, Rodale’s Men’s Health was off 13 percent to 431,792, although the monthly managed to limit its total circ decline to only 1.3 percent to 1.9 million with a 2.8 percent increase in subs. Sibling title Women’s Health’s newsstand was off even more, 14.3 percent to 315,075. Its total circ was flat at 1.6 million with a 4.4 percent increase in subs.

Condé Nast, while it derives only 13.5 percent of its total circ from the newsstand, is also feeling the pain. Its overall newsstand sales were down 6.6 percent, with 14 out of its 18 titles either flat or down for the half. While overall circ was flat at 18.6 million and Condé delivered a 3 percent bonus over the circulation it promises to advertisers, the company indicated it was managing rate base closer than in the past.

Most notably, Glamour, Condé’s biggest newsstand seller, was down 17.5 percent on stands to 453,707. The reliably strong single-copy seller Vanity Fair was up 1.6 percent, to 349,566. The company’s biggest newsstand gainer was Vogue, up 12.7 percent to 360,400.

Archrival Hearst reported its newsstand sales, including newly acquired Hachette Filipacchi Media's titles, declined 6.3 percent, with overall circ off 1.4 percent. Newsstand behemoth Cosmopolitan was off 2.6 percent to 1.6 million. Its No. 2 newsstand seller O, the Oprah Magazine was down 6.4 percent to 546,000.

All figures are first-half averages.

As for personalities, apparently, the Bieber cover curse continues. On almost every cover where the teen celeb appeared, sales were down—as much as 40 percent—versus previous issues of the same title, according to MagNet.

Issues that featured President Obama on the cover had a mixed performance. Kate Middleton, however, proved a sure thing, boosting sales significantly versus previous issues of the same title, per MagNet.

Recommended articles