This is about the time that circulation managers are polishing up their returns to send off to the ABC and if the recent retail trends are anything to go by, there will need to be an interesting range of techniques employed to put any sort of positive spin on the figures.
Dropping into Private Frazer’s inbox is Seymour Distribution‘s report on Quarter 1 newsstand sales. This covers the whole market, not just the titles that Seymour represents, and it indicates a year on year drop of nearly 14% in sales volumes. That means that newsstand is down by over a third since the beginning of 2009.
And the carnage seems to be pretty much across the board: women’s titles are down by 14% year on year, motoring is off 10%, computing over 20%, men’s interest over 25%.
There are no bright points among the gloom. If you aren’t a long way down a strategic route to offset the decline in print, then really, honestly, truly, you’re probably too late.
Private Frazer was away last week on the sun-drenched beaches of North Uist so has only just got round to looking at the ABC release of the July-December circulation figures.
Appropriately for a report that came out on February 14th, publishers have suffered an absolute massacre. What to pick out from the jewels at the bottom of the vat of red ink?
One could point at Reader’s Digest which saw 138,000 copies fall away over the year (that’s over a third of its 2011 circulation); or Bauer, whose easy-going owners are no doubt blase about losses of 15%, 20% and 40% respectively for Closer, Heat and More.
Hearst’s printers too will have more capacity on their presses as Cosmo drops 69,000 copies, Reveal sheds 67,000, Company loses 59,000 and Best takes a 40,000 circulation bath.
Or should we laud Immediate, who have managed to take massive hits on four of their biggest brands – Good Food, Top Gear, Gardeners World and Radio Times are all over 30,000 copies down.
No, this time the prize has to go to Northern and Shell with three stellar performances: over 107,000 lost from each of Star and New!, and a 46,000 drop for OK! A quarter of a million copies an issue gone, like the memories of better days.
While I get round to digesting last week’s ABC returns, here’s an indication of where the market might be going, courtesy of Baird Davis in Folio:.
Over the past five years this is what’s happened on the US newsstands. “Bad” doesn’t even get half way to describing it:
- Unit Sales: Down 44.9%
- Revenue: Down 38.0%
- Total Paid Circ: Down 14.9%
- Single Copy Circ: Down 44.7%
- Single Copy Circ as a Percent of Total Circ: Down from 17.7 to 11.8%
Mind you, with Hearst off 11% year on year and Bauer down over 10%, we might manage to go down the plughole even faster than our colonial cousins.
A correspondent emails Seymour Distribution‘s latest newsstand market trends and we may have to redefine the word ‘grim’ to encompass just how shitty things are in magazine retail.
Put it this way, next week’s Mayan apocalypse will seem like relatively good news for most people working in circulation.
The overall quarter 3 figures were 10.8% down on the same period last year, which was over 9% down on the year before, which was 10% down on the year before that. That means newsstand sales are over 25% down on three years ago.
However much publishers spin their digital sales growth, this is a big, dark hole that is not being filled.
There’s been very little noise about the latest National Readership Survey results. Many publishers prefer to quote NRS figures over ABC as they give a more malleable view of a title’s penetration in the market, dealing as they do with ‘readership’ rather than ‘circulation’.
Perhaps everyone was too busy to pay much attention to the results? For anyone who is interested, here are some highlights from the Top Line data, comparing the periods a) April 2009 – March 2010 with b) April 2010 – March 2011.
Top 20 weeklies, total readership (more…)
Ping! An interesting document appears in Private Frazer’s inbox showing magazine sales trends based on major newsstand retailers’ EPoS figures.
Sales volumes fell 6% year on year between April 2010 and April 2011. “But that’s all down to the long holiday” you cry – except that April 2010 was hit by the extended holiday that was the volcanic ash cloud, so was 5% down on April 2009.
Add these figures together and you get the result that April 2011′s magazine sales volumes were 10.8% lower than those of April 2009.
Didn’t T S Eliot have something to say about April? In fact, that same ditty has a couplet that’s even more appropriate:
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
I haven’t see that much red ink since Barra Nursery School did a full size drawing of a London bus.
10pm UPDATE Wee Bobby Andrews over at PaidContent has done some sums which you can see here
Most media outlets swallow publishers’ circulation claims – what Robert had done is use actual sales figures, so eliminating frees. These show paid circulation down over 20% in the past decade.
The actual situation is even worse than this as ‘sales’ can include paid for bulks, cheapo subs and newsstand offers, and spurious overseas ‘sales, (hello Nicholas).
News from our colonial cousins, courtesy of AdAge
One way or another… magazines keep selling fewer copies.
…overall paid and verified circulation [fell] 1.2% in the second half of 2010, compared with the second half of 2009, … That follows trims of 2.3% in the first half of 2010, 2.2% in the second half of 2009, 1.2% in the first half of 2009 and nearly 1% in the second half of 2008.
Newsstand sales… fell at a faster rate this time after slowing their decline for a couple of periods in a row.
Single-copy sales fell 7.3% in the second half of 2010 compared with the second half of 2009, a bigger drop than the 5.6% decline that came in the first half of last year. Newsstand sales previously plunged 9.1% in the second half of 2009, 12.4% in the first half of 2009 and 11.1% in the second half of 2008.
[i.e. US newsstand sales are nearly 40% down in three years]
Running counter to the hope that advertising might be picking up in the US, is this wee bit of news courtesy of Folio:
Consumer magazines continued its general circulation decline through the first half, with total paid and verified circ. slipping 2.27%, … Newsstand sales also continued to dive, falling 5.63%.
The latest Bellwether survey reveals that marketing budgets were revised down in Q2 amid uncertainty regarding the economic outlook, with around 20% of companies reporting a downward revision against 15% that reported an increase. Business confidence has also dipped with positive sentiment the lowest for a year.