While this may leave many surprised -- especially in light of an overall decrease in newsstand sales and subscriptions over the same period -- there's no denying the general upward trend from 2000-2009.
In this analysis, MediaPost compared MRI's annual spring audience figures over the last decade for 81 titles, sorted into three broad categories: general interest, women's interest and men's interest. Performance varied widely from title to title and between categories: General interest actually declined slightly from 2000-2009, with a -1.4% drop, but this was more than offset by bigger increases in the total audience for women's interest (up 13.3%) and men's interest (13.1%).
To be included in the analysis, every title had to be published continuously and measured by MRI every year from 2000-2009. For general interest, MRI's total adult audience figures were used, while gender-specific readership data was used for women's interest and men's interest magazines.
Twenty-four titles were analyzed in the general interest category: Architectural Digest, BusinessWeek, Ebony, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune, Food & Wine, Inc., Jet, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Money, National Enquirer, National Geographic, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Rolling Stone, Runner's World, Scientific American, Smart Money, Smithsonian, Spin, The New Yorker, This Old House and Time.
As noted, the total audience for this cohort declined -1.4%, dropping from 211,630,000 in spring 2000 to 208,805,000 in spring 2009. However, during this 10-year period, the total audience number varied considerably, both up and down -- including a peak of 228,255,000 in 2002 and a trough of 207,497,000 in 2007 -- so it's hard to draw any conclusions about an overall trend.
Furthermore, only 10 of the 24 titles saw their audience drop from 2000-2009, and only five fell over 10%: Inc. (-21%), Kiplinger's Personal Finance (-27%), National Enquirer (-24%), Reader's Digest (-28%) and Spin (-32%). Subtracting these five titles from the group, the remaining 19 actually saw their total audience increase 10%, from 147,824,000 in 2000 to 162,414,000 in 2009.
Thirty-eight titles were analyzed in the women's interest category: Allure, Better Homes & Gardens, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Elle, Elle Décor, Entertainment Weekly, Essence, Family Circle, Fitness, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Gourmet, Harper's Bazaar, Health, House Beautiful, Ladies' Home Journal, Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Living, Metropolitan Home, Modern Bride, Parenting, People, Prevention, Redbook, Self, Seventeen, Shape, Soap Opera Digest, Soap Opera Weekly, Southern Living, Star, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Woman's Day.
The total female audience for these titles increased 13.3%, from 297,606,000 in spring 2000 to 337,337,000 in spring 2009. The peak value of 353,253,000 came in 2008; the lowest figure (after spring 2000) was 314,640,000 in 2003. Only eight of the 38 titles saw their female audience decrease over this period, and only four of these fell over 10%: Ladies' Home Journal (-16%), Redbook (-12%), Soap Opera Digest (-27%) and Soap Opera Weekly (-21%).
Nineteen men's interest titles were analyzed: Automobile, Esquire, Field & Stream, Golf Digest, GQ, Guns & Ammo, Hot Rod, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, Men's Journal, Motor Trend, Muscle & Fitness, Outdoor Life, Outside, Playboy, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Road & Track and Sports Illustrated.
The total male audience of these magazines increased 13.1%, from 102,115,000 in spring 2000 to 115,527,000 in spring 2009. The peak figure of 116,603,000 came in spring 2008; the lowest figure (after spring 2000) was 102,615,000 in 2004. Of the 19 titles, only Field & Stream experienced a decline of over 10% (-13%).