Magazines Face Reader Erosion, Two Out Of Three Titles Experience Declines

As if U.S. magazine publishers didn't have enough to worry about, now they're also experiencing eroding readership. Magazine readership among major consumer magazines measured by Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) declined 1.9 percent between the fall of 2002 and just-released estimates from MRI's fall 2003 survey.

The declines come at a time when the magazine industry is struggling to recover from a weak advertising marketplace and as its trade organization, the Magazine Publishers of America, has embarked on ambitious new research intended to glean new insights about how readers relate to magazines.

Publishers also are embroiled in negotiations with major agencies and advertisers over rate increases for 2004 calendar year advertising deals. Publishers have been seeking moderate single digit rate increases. Agencies have been trying to hold the line at no increases. Based on the new MRI data, some publishers might be hard-pressed to convince advertisers they merit an increase.

In fact, when magazine ad rate inflation is taken into account, the drop in magazine readership means advertisers are getting far less for every ad dollar they invested in magazines. A MediaDailyNews analysis of data from the Publishers Information Bureau and the new MRI data indicates that Madison Avenue shelled out an average of $10.59 per magazine reader during the 12-months ending in October 2003. That's 12.9 percent more than the ad industry spent per average magazine reader during the 12-months ending October 2002.



On the bright side, the data indicate consumer magazine publishers, on average, are getting a higher advertising yield per reader. Of course, averages can be misleading. Among the 205 consumer magazines common to both MRI's fall 2002 and fall 2003 studies, 73 titles (36 percent) increased their total audience, while 132 titles (64 percent) experienced and audience decline.

Magazines in the newsweekly category, which includes Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report, experienced some of the worst readership erosion (-7.2 percent) followed by travel (-6.6 percent) and men's magazines (-5.2%). The decline in readership among men's books is striking given the supposed strength of so-called "laddie" titles.

Not factored in that comparison wee seven magazines that were reported for the first time in MRI's fall 2003 report: AARP: The Magazine (formerly Modern Maturity), American Woodworker, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, CosmoGIRL!, Diabetes Forecast, Wine Spectator and Wired.

The MRI data is used by most major ad agencies to plan magazine buys.

Ad Dollars Spent Per Reader Is On The Rise

Ad Dollars Readers Ad $ Per Reader
Fall 2003 $17,980.2 million 1,699.7 million $10.59
Fall 2002 $16,242.3 million 1,732.5 million $9.38
Change +10.7% -1.9% +12.9%

Source: MediaDailyNews analysis of data from the Publishers Information Bureau (12 months through October of each year) and average magazine readership estimates from Mediamark Research Inc.
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