Mags See Newsstand Woes Waning

Finally, some good news for magazines—sort of.

After a punishing first half on the newsstand, many of the industry’s biggest newsstand sellers saw sales declines ease in the second half of the year.

It’s a shot of welcome news for the industry, which saw single-copy sales plunge 12.4 percent in the first six months of the year. Those results were partly affected by a disruption in the wholesaler delivery chain that led to delays in getting issues to stores. Broad economic troubles also were blamed for a decline in single-copy sales.

In the second half, though, single-copy sales declines narrowed for big newsstand sellers like People, In Style, Glamour, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan.

Us Weekly managed a 2 percent increase on newsstand. O, the Oprah Magazine, eked out a 6 percent gain, helped by its December issue, which sold more than 1 million copies.

The numbers come from publishers’ preliminary estimates filed to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which is set to release its second-half data Feb. 8.

Not all shared in the improvement. Good Housekeeping’s newsstand sales fell nearly 30 percent on top of a 17.7 percent decline in the first half. Vogue was down 15 percent and Men’s Health, 14 percent.

Celeb weekly In Touch also had another tough half; its sales, which are mostly newsstand-based, averaged 790,395 for the period, down 12 percent year-over-year and 1 percent below its 800,000 rate base. Sibling Life & Style was down slightly from a year ago, to 470,486.

Nonetheless, parent Bauer Publishing said it’s happy with the performance of both titles in a challenging newsstand market and economy and that it has no plans to adjust the rate base for either.

Despite the improvements for some, the fact that many titles are still declining suggests to one magazine executive that there’s a continued migration by consumers away from print.  

“It does look to me like there’s some lowering of the tide across the industry,” the exec said.

Spark Communications strategic buyer/planner Jeff Alwine wondered if the closing of many magazines in recent years has led some readers to give up on the medium.

“If you can’t trust your magazine’s going to be there, do you come back?” Alwine said.

“Consumers are trying to tighten their belts, and if a magazine folded, you just assume, ‘I’ll do without.’”

Related: 2010 Media Forecast