Gun Publications Are a Bright Spot for Magazine Circulation

Industry is flat overall, with digital up significantly

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It hasn't been a particularly great year for magazine circulation, but one category is shining as a beacon of hope for the American publishing industry: guns.

American Rifleman and America’s 1st Freedom, both of which are benefits of NRA membership, saw their circulations increase 14 percent to 1.9 million and 8 percent to 545,019, respectively, in the first half of the year versus the year-ago period. Handguns and Guns & Ammo, published by InterMedia Outdoors, saw their circ jump 16 percent to 137,648 and 7 percent to 416,224, respectively. 

Those numbers notwithstanding, overall circulation of 390 measured titles declined about 1 percent in the first half, with newsstand sales down 10 percent, according to newly released data from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

The all-important fashion magazines and celebrity weeklies were especially hard hit. Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Lucky, InStyle, Elle, Vogue, Bazaar and Teen Vogue all saw single-copy sales drop by double digits. Among celeb weeklies, Life & Style had the biggest decline (about 21 percent). Even Time Inc. powerhouse People fell by nearly 12 percent in single-copy sales.

On the digital side, circulation nearly doubled in the past year from 5.4 million to 10.2 million copies but still made up a tiny portion—just 3.3 percent—of overall circ. The top three biggest digital titles were Game Informer Magazine (about 2.97 million digital copies in circulation), Reader’s Digest (292,285 copies) and Cosmopolitan (246,815 copies).

The Association of Magazine Media president and CEO Mary Berner downplayed the overall circ numbers, noting that the AAM report only represents about one-third of the total magazine audience and pointing out that the weak newsstand numbers reflect the economy and retail environment. “Newsstand circulation reflects the contraction in venues where magazines are traditionally sold, continuing weakness in the economy and reduced discretionary spending as many Americans struggle to make ends meet,” she said.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.