Mag Sag: Readership Growing Older

The median age of magazine readers continued to creep upward in the last five years, according to annual surveys from Mediamark Research Inc. On average, a collection of more than 90 popular magazines in a variety of categories saw the median age of their readers increase two years, from 39.8 to 41.8, between spring 2002 and 2007.

Catering to an ad industry that is often focused on youth, magazine publishers might counter that two years isn't a big deal. What's more, median figures aren't "averages" in the traditional sense, but simply the midpoint of a group of data points. However, the two-year figure did outpace the population at large, where the median age increased 1.3 years from 43.4 to 44.7.

And while the trend isn't universal, it does affect many of the leading titles when it comes to targeting certain ad sectors. It also accounts for the baby-boomer population, especially the younger end, heading into their mid- to-late 40s.

MRI presents median-age data broken down by gender, as well as overall totals, allowing a more meaningful analysis of magazines with gender-specific appeal. For example, the median age of Consumer Reports' male audience--representing about 70% of its 4.3 million readers--rose three years from 46.1 in spring 2003 to 49.1 in spring 2007. Meanwhile, the median age of Men's Health's male audience rose 2.2 from 2002-2007, from 35.8 to 38, as Men's Journal rose 5.7 years from 33.8 to 39.5. Golf Digest's median male age rose 4.3 years to 48.5, as Esquire's jumped five years to 43.



These magazines are indicative of a broader trend that also saw the median age of male readership rise one to two years at Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Outside, Outdoor Life, and Men's Fitness. Auto enthusiast titles, which generally target men, also experienced gains--with Automobile jumping 4.1 years, Car and Driver 3.3 years, Hot Rod 2.1 years, Motor Trend 3.8 years, and Road & Track 3.4 years.

Titles on the other side of the gender divide have also experienced an upward trend, including fashion and lifestyle books. From spring 2002 to spring 2007, the median age of female readers increased 2.1 years at Allure (to 30), three years at Bride's (to 32.9), 1.8 years at Glamour (to 33.4), three years at Harper's Bazaar (to 41.3), 2.4 years at Redbook (to 45.4), 4.3 years at Self (to 38.2), and 2.1 years at Woman's Day (to 49.8).

Shelter and lifestyle titles also rose by varying degrees. The median age of female readers increased 3.4 years at Better Homes & Gardens (to 48.8), 2.9 years at Country Living (to 49.8), 3.8 years at Family Circle (to 52), 2.8 years at Good Housekeeping (to 50.1), 3.5 years at House & Garden (to 51.8), five years at Ladies' Home Journal (to 53.2), and five years at Martha Stewart Living (to 46.6).

General interest titles, including newsweeklies, also experienced overall median age increases from 2002-2007. Here, Time rose two years to 45.8, U.S. News & World Report rose 4.4 years to 50.3, and Vanity Fair jumped 5 years to 41.7. Smithsonian is up 3.6 years to 54. The median age rose 3.7 years at Barron's, to 49.5, and 2.8 years at BusinessWeek, to 46.4.

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