Data released last week by three major magazine tracking organizations offers clues to the health of the industry as it navigates a post-recessionary environment.
While numbers released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) showing circulation numbers for the second half of 2010 received the most attention, data from BPA Worldwide and MagNet also reveal possible trends in magazine subscription and single copy sales.
ABC's preliminary numbers tracked total paid and verified circulation for the top 25 consumer titles, revealing an overall 1.2-percent decline in the second half of 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier. This represents a slowdown from slides of 2.3 percent in the first half of 2010 and 2.2 percent in the second half of 2009, but still indicates the industry has a way to go to achieve pre-recession health.
Advertising Age reported many larger publishers, such as Meredith, have cut paid circulation guarantees to concentrate on loyal readers willing to pay more for subscriptions. Some lowering newsstand sales can be chalked up to changes in distribution strategy focused on targeted placement and profits, other publishers claim.
Fifteen of the top 25 magazines saw circulation declines, with the largest percentage decrease coming from Reader's Digest (22.23 percent) and the largest increase from Game Informer Magazine (33.32 percent). Changes for most other titles were modest, with bellwether brands such as Time (down 0.43 percent) and People (down 0.33 percent) reflecting the slight downward trend.
Numbers from BPA Worldwide seem to indicate a focused attention on rate base in the new publishing environment. The first installment of BPA's Consumer Trend Report About Circulation (TRAC) for the second half of 2010 is not comprehensive (more publishers will be added to later editions as they file statements), but does encompass a variety of magazine publishers.