Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Celebrity Magazines Gain, but Not Industry Circulation

Celebrity Magazines Gain, but Not Industry Circulation

Magazine circulation continues to hold steady this year, in contrast to declining sales of newspapers, with big increases among celebrity-oriented magazines, according to figures released yesterday.

Sales of most large-circulation magazines changed little from the first half of 2006 to the first six months of 2007, according to the numbers compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The biggest exception was Time magazine, whose circulation dropped sharply, to 3.4 million from 4.1 million, a 17 percent decline that resulted mostly from a planned retrenchment announced last year. The magazine cut back on expensive promotional campaigns that tend not to draw many long-term subscribers and on sales to buyers who are not the actual readers - doctors' offices and barbershops, for example - and are often less appealing to advertisers.

Those changes were among many at Time last year and this year, including staff cuts, a redesign, a newsstand price increase, a shift of newsstand arrival to Fridays instead of Mondays, and the hiring of a new managing editor, Richard Stengel.

"We made a deliberate effort to change the reader mix of the magazine and reduce its rate base," the sales figure promised to advertisers, said John Squires, executive vice president of Time Inc., a division of Time Warner. The readers who were lost, he said, "tend to be people who are really just sampling the magazine."

He added that circulation numbers in the next few reporting periods should be fairly steady.

Circulation at Time's primary competitors in the newsweekly category, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, was essentially unchanged. With more than 3.1 million subscribers, Newsweek was within striking distance of its longtime rival. U.S. News & World Report reported more than 2 million subscribers.

One other large magazine also saw a significant drop in subscribers. TV Guide's circulation fell 12 percent, to less than 3.3 million, after strategic changes similar to those at Time.

Some of the biggest winners this year have been the chroniclers of Angelina, Britney, TomKat and the like.

Circulation of OK! Weekly jumped 54 percent, to more than 809,000 copies an issue, and US Weekly, In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly all rose 5 percent to 10 percent. People magazine, with a less intensive focus on celebrities and a less sensational tone than some of the others, still outsells them all, but its circulation dropped about 2 percent, to more than 3.7 million.

In more serious fare, the North American edition of The Economist had a sharp increase in circulation, to 694,000 from 601,000. The other major business and finance magazines, like Forbes, Fortune, Money, BusinessWeek, Inc. and Barron's had only minor changes.

Over all, 664 magazines reported combined circulation of about 360 million. Year-to-year comparisons are difficult because some magazines are late in reporting and this year's numbers have not yet been audited, but the figures are about the same as last year's.

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