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The second-half circulation numbers for 2010 were better for a few players, but most magazines saw their readership continue to slide on newsstands. “It was just more of the same,” said Jack Hanrahan, media consultant and publisher of CircMatters. “It’s a continuation of a downward trend in single copy sales since 1990. I bet we’ll continue to see this decline.”
Hearst was down about 6 percent, while Condé Nast fell 10 percent in single copy sales. Some of the largest newsstand declines at Condé came from Allure, down roughly 19 percent; Lucky, which fell 22 percent, and Self, which dropped 16 percent. “Our continued strategy to focus on efficiency and improved margins — through price increases and distribution reductions — impacted single copy volume but improved overall profitability,” said a spokeswoman. She added that paid subscriptions were up 3.2 percent.
As consumers continue to buy fewer magazines on the newsstand, publishers are looking to alternative sources of revenue, such as digital tablets, for future growth. But Hanrahan is convinced there is still more that can be done to counter newsstand declines. “Why don’t magazines, at least in limited markets, promote themselves more with outdoor advertising the weekend they come out, for example,” he said. “You never hear them talk about their different promotional strategies. It feels like they are just putting these magazines out there and saying, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ ”
The big winner in the second half was Town & Country, which saw newsstand sales up 25 percent, stirring questions as to why Stephen Drucker is either leaving or being encouraged to go. Drucker’s new editorial direction, which included several different cover experiments — from a vibrant picture of Tory Burch for September, to an old black-and-white photograph of Gloria Vanderbilt in November and then Ina Garten and Nora Ephron the next month — seemed to win out with readers. He declined comment Thursday, perhaps because the news was too bittersweet. He came into Town & Country last spring full of ideas to turn it around and now has one foot out the door, soon to be succeeded by Jay Fielden.
A few other magazines had success, namely Health, which rose 20 percent, thanks in part to a redesign and new focus of putting celebrities on its covers. Issues with Christina Hendricks, Janet Jackson and Hilary Duff were particularly strong. “It paid dividends in a big way,” said publisher Dave Watt. Vogue rose almost 5 percent, Harper’s Bazaar and Martha Stewart Living were up 3 percent, People StyleWatch increased 2.4 percent and GQ was top among men’s titles, up 5.8 percent.
Below, WWD provides the circulation figures for the largest fashion and lifestyle magazines, as filed to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.