More and more celebrity gossip rags are being left at the checkout counter.
The Alliance for Audited Media released Thursday its semiannual circulation report for U.S. consumer magazines, and the news isn’t good for purveyors of Kardashian-centric chatter. Single-copy sales of many celebrity and lifestyle magazines tumbled during the second half of 2012, with some of the top titles getting hardest hit.
People, the fourth best-selling magazine in the country, saw its retail sales drop by 12.2 percent to 971,668 for the six-months ending Dec. 31. The drop followed an 18.6 percent decline for the first half of 2012. Other gossip titles that saw double-digit declines include In Touch Weekly, Us Weekly, Life & Style and Star Magazine. Star’s drop was the worst at 21 percent, which came on top of a 14 percent decline for the first half of the year. The magazine has seen its sales fizzle by almost 100,000 copies since the middle of 2011.
The decline of single-copy sales -- at supermarkets, newsstands, bookstores and other retail locations -- has been a toubling trend for all magazine publishers. But gossip magazines, which rely heavily on impulse purchases at checkout lines, have been hit particularly hard. Consumers interested in the latest details on Bethenny Frankel’s divorce or the Rihanna-Chris Brown debacle are turning increasingly to the Web, where gossip tidbits spread instantly around the world with the help of social media. Indeed, many gossip magazines have a robust presence online. In 2011, People.com became the first magazine website ever to surpass 1 billion monthly page views, according to Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), corporate parent of People’s owner, Time Inc.
But by the time gossip news makes it to a newsstand, it is often long past its expiration date. Time Inc., for all its bragging about People’s page views, has been fiercely struggling to rescue its bottom line from diminishing print revenues. Last month, it began a series of steep layoffs that will affect 500 employees, or 6 percent of its global workforce. It’s the largest round of cuts at the company since 2008, when it axed about 600 employees.
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For its latest report, AAM tracked 402 U.S. magazine titles. Across the board, single-copy sales decreased by 8.2 percent. At the same time, paid subscriptions held steady, ticking up 0.7 percent for the period. Digital circulation is soaring, meanwhile, with 289 magazines now reporting that they publish an iPad or tablet edition, up from 245 magazines during the second half of 2011. Unfortunately for prognosticators who had championed iPads as a savior for the publishing industry, the segment is not growing fast enough: Digital replica copies, according to AAM, still represent less than 1 percent of the total industry average circulation.
Gossip magazines are not the only segment suffering from the drop in single-copy sales. Fashion glossies, such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, also saw double-digit declines over the last six months. But none were as steep as the gossip segment. Life & Style, one of the magazines sued by Tom Cruise last year after it printed a story about his alleged poor parenting skills, saw its sales tumble 19.1 percent. If his lawyers don’t hurry up, they may lose the case due to lack of evidence.
View AAM’s full report here.