Magazine Print Audiences Fall, Digital Editions Fail To Deliver

Aside from a few notable exceptions, the audiences for print magazines continued to decline in the second half of 2015, according to the latest figures from research outfit GfK MRI.

The declines in print audiences usually canceled out much smaller increases in the audiences for digital editions. However, it’s important to note that the figures for digital editions do not include reading on Web sites, and therefore are not representative of their full digital audiences.

All the following audience figures are for print and digital editions only.

Among women’s interest magazines, the total print and digital edition audience for Woman’s Day fell 14.3% from 17.2 million in fall 2014 to 15.9 million in fall 2015. Over the same period, Cosmopolitan’s total audience fell 11.7% from 17.1 million to 15.1 million; Women’s Health fell 10.3% from 11.1 million to 10 million; Better Homes and Gardens 7.4% from 39.4 million to 36.5 million; and Family Circle 7.3% from 17.2 million to 15.9 million.

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Turning to celebrity titles, Entertainment Weekly’s total audience fell 19.5% from 10.5 million to 8.5 million; People fell 10.4% from 44 million to 39.4 million; and US Weekly dipped 8% from 13.5 million to 12.5 million. In the fashion and beauty category, In Style was down 19.5% from 10.3 million to 8.3 million; Glamour was down 17.2% from 11.9 million to 9.9 million; Allure fell 13.7% from 6.1 million to 5.2 million; and Elle dropped 8.3% from 5.6 million to 5.1 million.

Many men’s interest titles also saw major declines. Maxim was down 21% 7.1 million to 5.6 million; Esquire dropped 19.7% from 3.8 million to 3 million; Car and Driver was down 12.1% from 9.7 million to 8.6 million; and Men’s Health dropped 6.3% from 13.1 million to 12.2 million.

As noted, there were a handful of exceptions. Titles bucking the general trend included Good Housekeeping, up 10.9% from 17 million to 18.8 million, and ESPN The Magazine, up 7.7% from 15.3 million to 16.5 million.

In terms of publishers, Hearst’s total print and digital edition magazine audience as measured by GfK MRI fell 7.6% from 161.7 million to 149.4 million; Conde Nast fell 12.8% from 89.6 million to 78.2 million; and Rodale was down 10% from 37.3 million to 33.4 million. On the other hand, Meredith’s total audience increased, reflecting the addition of Martha Stewart Living, growing 5% from 112.6 million to 118.3 million.

Across the board, digital editions remain a very small part of the total magazine audience for most publishers, and in some cases are actually decreasing (again, these figures do not include Web site audiences). Over this period, according to GfK MRI, Hearst’s digital edition audience rose from 3.1 million to 4 million, edging up from 1.9% of its total audience to 2.7%.

Meredith’s digital edition audience rose from 1 million to 3.8 million, or from 0.9% to 3.2%. Conde Nast’s digital edition audience decreased slightly from 2.1 million to 1.9 million, but increased in proportional terms from 2.4% to 2.5%. Rodale’s digital edition audience also shrank from 1.17 million to 824,000, decreasing from 3.1% to 2.5% of the total.

6 comments about "Magazine Print Audiences Fall, Digital Editions Fail To Deliver".
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  1. larry towers from nyu, December 8, 2015 at 8:38 p.m.

    In a world where consumers get any and all the movies they want for $11 bucks a month they feel that subscription prices are too high. Publishers need to do as Hulu, Netflix etc and offer a suite of content for a fixed price.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 9, 2015 at 9:55 a.m.

    Erik, did MRI provide any overall all-title averages showing year-to-year trends on printed copy ve digital readership? Such "norms" might provide a useful frame of referrence for those noting variations for individual publishers.

  3. Erik Sass from mediapostpublications replied, December 9, 2015 at 3 p.m.

    Hi Ed -- I don't believe they did, but I will crunch the numbers myself.  Stay tuned... Best, Erik S

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 9, 2015 at 4:04 p.m.

    Thanks, Erik. I'll be interested in seeing your calculations.

  5. Erik Sass from mediapostpublications replied, December 9, 2015 at 5:52 p.m.

    My pleasure!  Ok, according to my calculations, the total print and digital edition audience for all magazines tracked by GfK MRI in fall 2014 was 1,216,508,000, and the total audience for all magazines in fall 2015 was 1,131,193,000, for a decrease of 7%. Excluding a handful of titles that ceased publication or for some reason didn't appear in both reports, the figures were fall 2014, 1,170,184,000; fall 2015, 1,118,580,000, for a 4.4% decrease among titles which remained active.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 9, 2015 at 6:20 p.m.

    Thanks for doing that tabulation, Erik. It's as I suspected---based on past experience---namely that the readership figures will probably be more stable---even if a tad smaller---than the circulation counts.

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