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.
Private Frazer was away last week, knocking over wee bairns on the slopes around the pretty Austrian village of Schadenfreude, so missed the publication of the latest ABC figures.
It seems that as I sipped the gluhwein, the UK publishing industry has been experiencing black runs of its own, with descents so precipitous they would make Franz Klammer blanch.
There are stand out performances across the board, and it seems almost unfair to single out individual companies. Almost.
Q: What do Practical Fishkeeping and Model Rail magazines have in common?
A: They are the only two – the only two – of Bauer’s whole portfolio to show any ABC growth in the last period. So that’s 43 fallers and 2 risers (by 611 and 537 copies respectively.)
More ABC-based fun during next week readers!
Lots of coverage today for ‘tablet editor-in-chief’ Mike Goldsmith of Future’s announcement that they made $1 million in just over 3 months of launching all 65 of their magazines on Apple’s Newsstand. The key figures are:
- 75,000 subscriptions gained
- 40 percent of orders are for subscriptions
- 9.3 million free container apps downloads
- 8.5 million free issues
- 4.3 million opt-ins for push messages
This has led to general rejoicing all round.
Obviously, it’s unlike me to be curmudgeonly, but let’s have a wee look at these numbers.
- First off – $1million of revenue in 104 days gives us around $3.5 million over a full year. That’s £2.25 million against Future’s revenue last year of £141 million.
- 75,000 subscriptions against 9.3 million downloads is under 1% conversion. If subs are 40% of sales, then total unit sales must be around 200,000, which nudges just over 2% conversion.
- $1 million is just over $15,000 per title on average
- If the total sales are around 200,000, then the average sale value must be around $5 (which, actually, isn’t bad).
Two more points:
Many of the 75,000 subs are short-term and cost only £0.69 regularly, so Goldsmith cautions that subscriber count could go down as well as up and not all subscribers are high-value. [So where is the average $5 value coming from?]
All but three of Future’s iPad titles – T3, Guitarist Deluxe and Tap! – are page-turner magazine replicas. But Goldsmith said: “ If I did a T3 on every one of future’s 65 titles, I’d bankrupt the company. ”
And one quote that we can all agree with:
“Print circulations are declining – we are not going to get them back up – iPad is helping. The genie is out of the bottle, so we need to embrace it.”
A ‘pre-close trading update‘ from Future provides a few interesting snippets, amongst which are:
- revenues expected to be 6% down year on year
- UK revenue expected to be 2% down
- £3.5million cash cost of axing 10% of workforce
- £1.4 million provision for having empty offices because they’ve axed 10% of workforce
A possible significant paragraph is in the middle of the release:
In July the Group announced steps to accelerate the transition of Future US into a primarily digital business. However, with trading conditions in the US reflecting ongoing weakness and decreasing visibility at newsstand, and an acceleration in the year-on-year growth rate in digital revenues, the Board is now considering a wider range of strategic options in respect of its US operations.
Does this mean that Future are considering either a) closing all magazines immediately (perhaps operating websites with a skeleton US staff and UK feeds) or even b) flogging off the whole operation to a
mug punter US publisher.
Look at the first two points from Future’s statement again – overall revenue down 6%, UK down 2%. The UK is 70% of Future’s business, so if Private Frazer’s abacus is correct, that means that US revenues are down 15% or more on last year – a significant deterioration in their trading performance.
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.