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Early First Half 2009 Magazine Circulation Numbers Are a Mixed Bag

The early "Rapid Report" numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the first half of the year are in. But even if magazine circulation is, not surprisingly, down in many cases, it isn't exactly what it seems. For once, the Great Recession is only partially to blame.

Also affecting newsstand sales, per Mediaweek, was the dispute between much of the magazine industry and the companies that deliver their product to newsstands earlier this year, which led some magazines to sit in warehouses when they should have been on newsstands. That adversely affected the fortunes of Star, which missed its rate base (the total circulation that a magazine guarantees to advertisers) in the first half of 2009. Meanwhile, US Weekly, one of its biggest competitors, saw an uptick in single-copy sales of three percent, and an overall circulation increase of 2.4 percent; it largely sidestepped that dispute.

The good news is that of the nine magazines whose first-half ABC numbers were profiled in this chart in Mediaweek, Star , in missing its rate base by .7 percent, was the only one that did so.

Here are some other factoids:

  • Many women's books got killed at the newsstand. Martha Stewart Living was down by 22.4 percent, Family Circle posted a 23.8 percent decline, and Redbook was off by a whopping 28.7 percent. Ouch.
  • Vanity Fair showed a healthy increase in single-copy sales, of 6.5 percent, selling 817,000 copies; The Economist showed a 10 percent increase in subscriptions.
  • Vogue saw a 6.3 percent increase in total circulation, while experiencing a 1.9 percent decline in single copy sales.
If the details above seem like a mixed bag, that's certainly true. But even though there are certainly some dismal numbers here, it's not a completely depressing set of statistics. In fact, many titles are showing enough gains in circulation that they are either finding a consumer sweet spot in terms of subscription offers and/or have people who really want to read their magazines. And that's a good thing. The ABC will file its complete first-half report at the end of this month.

Previous coverage of the magazine industry at BNET Media:

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