Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Bad Day for Magazines


Magazines that rely on newsstand sales received some pretty depressing news today. Some industries might have leaders who can ignore the news when they want, but from my experience, magazine publishers and editors tend to be news hounds who avidly follow goings-on.
Newsstand sales (single-copy sales) fell by 11 percent in the second half of 2008, reports Reuters. Particularly hard hit were women's and celebrity magazines, such as Life & Style and Us Weekly. (Those magazines apparently didn't learn the lesson to put Barack Obama on the cover as often as possible to boost sales.) Richard Perez-Pena, writing in The New York Times, notes:

In the crowded field of celebrity magazines, In Touch Weekly’s circulation tumbled 29.3 percent, to 899,000, and Life & Style Weekly fell 30.7 percent, to 472,000. Star magazine fell 10.3 percent, to 1.2 million, and the National Enquirer dropped 11.2 percent, to 891,000. OK! Weekly fared better, slipping 2.7 percent, to 910,000.
But sales of People, which only loosely fits the celebrity category, increased 2 percent, to almost 3.7 million, and even single-copy sales rose slightly. Its nearest competitor, Us Weekly, dropped 1.3 percent, to 1.9 million, despite a drop of more than 200,000 in single-copy sales.


News weeklies also were hard hit, but as Perez-Pena notes, some magazines did well. The Economist, The Week, People, and Domino all recorded gains (though Domino was closed in January).

But the bad news doesn't end there. Magazines have been in a death-match squabble with newsstand distribution companies as the distributors have tried to increase the money they get from publishers. And now they've taken their squabble to the American Thunderdome: the courts. Source Interlink, which tried to charge an extra 7 cents per copy to publishers (an action that sparked a revolt among publishers), has given up on the 7-cent extra charge but has decided to sue some distribution competitors and a number of publishers for allegedly conspiring against it; those being sued include Time Inc, Bauer Publications (the folks who bring you -- a dwindling number of you, apparently -- Life & Style and In Touch Weekly), and more.
Who will win? Will anybody win? Will 25-year-old straight guys get their copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? Only time (and probably Time Inc.) will tell.
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