Mag Bag: 2012 Was A Tough Year For Magazines

Magazine-Stand-AA22012 Was A Tough Year For Magazines

2009 was miserable. 2010 wasn’t much better. 2011 was a little bit worse. And 2012 looks to be, in a word, crappy.
 
Magazines can’t seem to catch a break, as the ongoing transition to digital media continues to undermine print advertising, still the main source of revenue for most big publishers. According to the Publishers Information Bureau, total ad pages fell 8.6% in the first nine months of 2012, compared to the same period last year.

That follows a decline of 3.2% for the full year 2011, which followed a flat 2010, which looked positively spectacular compared to drops of 25.6% in 2009 and 11.6% in 2008 -- blows from which the industry has never recovered.
 
Indeed, taking a somewhat longer perspective, the total number of ad pages at publications tracked by PIB has fallen from 179,339 in the first three quarters of 2006 to 110,483 in the first three quarters of 2012. That’s a 38.4% drop in six years -- not quite as bad as the newspaper business, where revenues are down by half, but a steep enough decline to prompt New York Times media columnist David Carr to warn in August: “Now, like newspapers, they seem to have reached the edge of the cliff.”
 
There is no solace to be found in circulation numbers, which confirm the decline of print audiences across a range of categories. According to the latest report from the Alliance of Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), in the first half of 2012, newsstand sales fell, for example: 5.7% at Cosmopolitan; 18.5% at the Economist; 20.5% at Elle; 6.8% at Glamour; 8.6% at GQ; 13.3% at In Touch Weekly; 14.6% at Ladies’ Home Journal; 20% at Maxim; 17.6% at Martha Stewart Living; 9.5% at Men’s Health; and 18.5% at People.
 
Of course, there is a glimmer of hope (and maybe more) in the rise of tablet computers, which magazine publishers immediately identified as a natural channel for the digital versions of their products. One out of every four Americans now owns a tablet computer, according to Pew, and the number rises to a third when e-readers are included.

Surveys have also shown wide demand for digital editions of magazines on tablets and other devices. On the business side, digital magazines offer advertisers a better grip on ROI through interactive ads, and many publishers are also jumping on the possibilities of e-commerce. Finally, eliminating costs associated with print and distribution can increase profit margins.
 
But the number of digital magazines sold remains fairly low, at least for the time being.

According to the AAM/ABC, among the magazines with the biggest circulation of digital replica editions, in the first half of 2012 Cosmopolitan’s digital circ was 185,673, or 6.2% of the title’s total, while Maxim’s was 284,824, or 11.3% of the total. For all the magazines tracked by AAM/ABC, digital replica editions had a total circulation of 5,469,062, or 1.7% of an overall circulation of 319,149,999.
 
These numbers are certain to grow -- but the question is whether growth will come fast enough, and in sufficient quantities, to offset continuing losses on the print side, which now look inevitable.
 
Atlantic Publishes First E-Book, "Battle at the End of Eden"
 
The Atlantic is jumping into the e-book business with its first original publication, "Battle at the End of Eden," by Amanda Martinez, who writes about the incredible lengths some committed conservations are willing to go to preserve endangered animals. Atlantic editor Scott Stossel explains: “Amanda’s piece, which she reported over many months from the Galápagos Islands and along the coast of California, sets a high bar for the ‘Atlantic Singles’ to come in the months and years ahead.” "Battle at the End of Eden" is available for the Kindle for $0.99.
 
Discover Shakes Up Editorial Staff
 
As part of a move to its new corporate home in Wisconsin, Discover magazine has made a raft of new editorial appointments. Stephen C. George, previously editor in chief of the Saturday Evening Post and then an executive editor for the Reader’s Digest Association, has been named editor in chief. Lisa Raffensperger, previously of the National Science Foundation, has joined as associate editor for online. Bill Andrews, previously of Astronomy, has been named associate editor.

Tags: magazines, tablet
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1 comment about "Mag Bag: 2012 Was A Tough Year For Magazines".
  1. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , December 28, 2012 at 10:31 a.m.
    Interesting juxtaposition of articles about magazines in today's Media Daily News - Joe Mandese's "glass is half full" article about 750 mag launches in 2012 vs. this "glass is half empty" article about the steady decline in ad pages of established titles. It would be interesting to know how many ad pages the new publications have run.