Sunday, August 12, 2007

Memo Pad: Winners and Losers

Memo Pad: Winners and Losers

WINNERS AND LOSERS: The first half of 2007 proved on average to be an OK one in circulation terms for niche, fashion, fitness, and teen titles, but wasn't so great for more general interest pubs, according to figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. ABC will release the full list of magazine circulation figures on Monday.

In the latter category, Vanity Fair struggled this period to top its strong newsstand performance in the first half of 2006, posting a 15.7 percent drop in single-copy sales. "In 2006, Vanity Fair had the best newsstand year in the magazine's history. So 2007 was up against a number of very successful issues," said editor in chief Graydon Carter. "And some of this year's covers just didn't do as well as we hoped. There is, unfortunately, no science to this." Perhaps one explanation could be that men don't sell as well for the pop culture monthly - Bruce Willis, Owen Wilson, Chris Rock, Leonardo DiCaprio and James Gandolfini all appeared on the cover in the first half, compared to female cover subjects like Naomi Watts, Lindsay Lohan and Teri Hatcher in last year's first half. "It depends on the man, of course, but as a rule, women do sell better than men. Unless that man is Brad Pitt," quipped Carter. In fact, Demi Moore, the only woman who appeared on its cover alone this period, sold best.

But Elle reported a 9.1 percent increase in single-copy sales, while Vogue posted a 4.6 percent uptick in newsstand sales, to 452,207. Lucky posted an 11.9 percent newsstand increase, to 250,240, and an overall circulation increase of 9.4 percent. Shape reported a 2.2 percent growth in total circulation, to 1.7 million, and Women's Health continued its strong circulation growth, reporting total paid circulation of 786,892. The title is raising its rate base to 1.1 million in January.

In contrast, general interest women's magazines reported softness on newsstands. Marie Claire posted a 20.1 percent decline in newsstand sales, to 328,200, despite a return to more traditional cover treatments compared to last fall's edgy experimentation by editor in chief Joanna Coles. Glamour posted a 7.3 percent drop on newsstands, to 755,289.

Redbook saw a 12.9 percent decline in single-copy sales for the first half, to 244,500. This comes after a 28.6 percent drop in the second half of 2006 and a 19.9 percent decrease in the first half of last year compared to the same period in 2005. Though such declines could rattle the average editor in chief, Redbook's Stacy Morrison said she's not worried. "It is a number. It is one number that is one part of many pieces of our overall strategy." Meanwhile, according to Morrison, the Redbook reader isn't wasting time thumbing through the racks. "When we're talking about a busy 35-year-old woman, she's the least likely person to dally at a newsstand."

In the teen category, circulation figures seem to prove that teens do indeed read magazines. Cosmogirl's newsstand grew 4.6 percent, while total circulation rose 3.1 percent, to 1.4 million, and Teen Vogue posted a 9.1 percent bump in newsstand sales, while overall circulation remained flat at 973,172. At Seventeen, single-copy sales increased 8.5 percent for the period and total circulation grew nearly 2 percent to 2 million. Editor in chief Ann Shoket took over the title in January, and its best-selling issue was, happily, Shoket's first, featuring Avril Lavigne. Shoket succeeded Atoosa Rubenstein.

Finally, the men's magazine circulation results varied, with Details and GQ reporting the strongest growth. Both Condé Nast men's titles posted 9.3 percent gains in total circulation, to 457,186 and 931,694, respectively. Details also reported strong newsstand growth for the period, an 11.6 percent increase, to 75,365. But the new owners of Maxim and Stuff have their work cut out for them. As private equity firm Quadrangle Group prepares to acquire the titles along with Blender in the next week or so, both reported shrinking circulation. Rumors continue to swirl about Stuff's eminent closure once its new owners take hold, and its numbers could signal that the end is near. Newsstand sales fell 33.9 percent, to 170,747; overall circulation declined 3.9 percent. Just two years ago, young men showed stronger affinity to its beer and babes content - Stuff averaged more than 300,000 single copies back then. - Stephanie D. Smith and Irin Carmon

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