Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bauer Tops List of Newsstand/Subscription Pricing Ratios

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."
George W. Bush

Bauer Tops List of Newsstand/Subscription Pricing Ratios
By John Harrington
The New Single Copy

Harrington Associates, publisher of The New Single Copy, completed a comparison of magazine newsstand cover prices and the "average price" the publisher is selling a subscription copy for. The latter figure is now required by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The list of major titles with the highest ratio (subscription price versus newsstand cover price) is dominated by the titles of Bauer Publishing (page 2). The company's weeklies, Life & Style, Woman's World, and In Touch, are the only magazines combining average newsstand sales of more than 500,000 with ratios of over 70%. A fourth Bauer title, the monthly First for Women, is next on the list with a 58.3% ratio. The weeklies sell well over 90% of their circulation at retail, and First for Women's share is 85%. Only a handful of magazines have newsstand shares over 50%, and only another handful have a better than 50% newsstand/sub ratio.

An irony is that Bauer is clearly committed to newsstand as its primary circulation source, yet its largest titles all currently have cover prices below $2.00. Wholesalers have been very vocal in the last year about their inability to produce profits from magazines with under $2.50 cover prices, regardless of volume or sales efficiency figures.

In addition to the figures listed on page 2, six magazines with average newsstand sales of over 30,000, maintained newsstand/sub ratios of over 60%: Girl's Life, Fine Gardening, Discovery Girls, Easy Home Cooking, Travel & Leisure, and Woodenboat.

The obvious question is How important is the newsstand/sub ratio? More than a few industry observers, not just wholesalers and their representatives, have long argued that large subscription discounts, heavily marketed, have depressed newsstand sales. Samir Husni, known for his counts of new magazines, recently devoted his blog, (6/5/07) to the subject, urging publishers, if they are serious about the newsstand, to even up their pricing strategies. He wrote, "Stop selling your magazine on the newsstands if you are not willing to reduce your newsstand price or increase your subscription price." Most would agree with the latter, but probably not with the former.

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