Stand Off: Magazine Newsstand Sales Tumble 11%

magazine kiosk As consumers tightened their belts, magazines were one of the little luxuries they dispensed with in the second half of 2008, according to the latest report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which says overall newsstand sales fell 11% compared to the second half of 2007.

As might be expected, magazines in categories affected by the recession did poorly, including shelter titles and auto enthusiast publications. In fact, all major categories suffered across the board--including some that were recently doing quite well, such as celebrity mags.

The news was pretty bad for shelter and domestic titles, including regional lifestyle mags. Meredith's Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal took some of the biggest-percentage hits at the newsstand, falling 39.1% to 231,333 and 40.3% to 230,911, respectively. Not far behind were Country Home (down 28.2%), Country Living (19.7%), Coastal Living (20.5%) and Martha Stewart Living (16.5%). The only scrap of good news was Time Inc.'s Southern Living, where newsstand sales crept up 1.9% to 176,801.



Women's beauty and fashion mags didn't do much better, with Glamour down 18.1% to 612,000, Harper's Bazaar down 14.1% to 153,234 and Allure down 12% to 224,550. On the women's lifestyle front, Redbook dropped 32.6% to 180,645, Cosmopolitan fell 6.2% to 1.78 million, and Self fell 14.4% to 300,633. Family Circle was down 19.2% to 789,500.

Celebrity titles, also targeting women, took big double-digit hits -- especially problematic since most of these titles rely on newsstand sales for the bulk of their circulation. In Touch Weekly tumbled 32% to 834,492, Us Weekly fell 20.7% to 796,669, Life & Style Weekly plunged 31.3% to 461,969, Star fell 13.4% to 617,096 and OK Weekly slipped 10.8% to 490,417.

There were two bright spots: Newsstand sales at People rose 3% to 1,472,149, and Entertainment Weekly was up 6.6% to 50,437.

Predictably for a recession, auto enthusiast titles (mostly targeting men) were also down. Car and Driver fell 19.6% to 100,433, Motor Trend sank 15.5% to 117,304 and Road & Track slipped 9.8% to 92,117. Automobile magazine fell 14.1% to 49,211. Music titles--primarily targeting men--did little better, with Blender down 17.8% to 44,233, Spin down 38.2% to 29,917, Vibe down 10.8% to 100,318, and Country Weekly down 17% to 91,346. Rolling Stone had the best relative performance, dropping a mere 5.2% to 134,660.

Finally, the business titles; perhaps people are less inclined to read about business when it's doing so poorly. Whatever the reason, BusinessWeek slipped 9.3% to 33,903, Forbes fell 13.1% to 32,782, Money dipped 16.2% to 87,582, and SmartMoney tanked 23.2% to 41,894. One title fared well, as The Economist's newsstand sales rose 10.9% to 75,777.

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