Magazine readership and circ figures: some positives among the downward trends

““The ability to do journalism, to reach audiences, has never been better. I like your odds. I do,” the recently deceased New York Times writer David Carr told a group of students in one of his last public appearances. And, according to an article published in the publication that wrote for, this optimism also extended to a portrait of Carr in a photo gallery at Boston University, which was underscored by the quotation: “I love the current future of journalism we are living through and care desperately about getting my students ready to prosper in this new place.”

Of course, every time the quarterly figures are released and again show the downward trend of the magazine industry, it’s difficult to be as optimistic as this, but looking at the journalism that pervades the pages of many of the publications in circulation in New Zealand today serves as reminder that the current generation of journalists still has the quality required to carry the canon of journalistic writing forward.    

That being said, the continued fragmentation of media has seen readers not relying solely magazines or newspapers to read the articles that interest them—and this has of course led to decline in the readership and circulation figures provided by Nielsen and ABC, respectively. 

In a continuation of the trends thus far, the weekly publications once again experienced dips across the board. 

These dips were also reflected in the circulation figures, with each of the publications surveyed shedding a few magazines over the course of the last year. Woman’s Day suffered the worst hit,  from 100,415 to 92,057*.  

Despite the downward turn in Woman’s Day and Woman’s Weekly, Bauer drew attention to the positive in the fact that these two publications continue to draw a massive audience of women. And while the numbers are slipping, the reality is that these publications remain effective at reaching a large number of the target market for many advertisers.      

Although there was also bad news for many publications in the monthly section, some publications bucked the trend and enjoyed a lift in readership. These included Avenues (93,000 to 97,000 readers), Deals on Wheels (64,000 to 70,000), M2 (72,000 to 77,000), Metro (140,000 to 162,000), Motorcycle Trader (81,000 to 84,000), Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations (59,000 to 75,000), Wild Tomato (32,000 to 37,000).

For the most part, the circulation figures followed the readership numbers.  

There was some good news for Fairfax in the bimonthly section, and the publisher drew attention to these in its summary of the results.   

“More New Zealanders are buying our top three lifestyle magazines this year than last year, including 40 percent growth for NZ Life & Leisure (Aztec scan sales MAT December 2014),” says a spokesperson. “NZ Life & Leisure grew its audience by 5.7 percent period on period.  Not only that, sales-to-date of January’s edition indicate it’s our highest ever since launch. And in May, the title celebrates it’s 10-year anniversary. NZ House & Garden remains the number home and garden magazine in New Zealand. NZ Lifestyle Block grew its audience by 15.9 percent year on year, and NZ Gardener [enjoyed] period-on-period increase of 3.9 percent.”  

NZ Rugby World also enjoyed a successful year, lifting its readership from 187,000 to 207,000. 

Of course, it wasn’t all good news as most of the other publications in the bi-monthly category shed some readers when the results were compared to those recorded last year.

In terms of circulation figures, only Build, DishGood, Green Ideas, Nursing Review, NZ Fishing World, NZ Geographic, NZ Life and Leisure, NZ Light Commercial Vehicle Magazine and NZ Rugby World enjoyed lifts in the number of magazines in publication.  

In the quarterlies section New Zealand Weddings lifted slightly from 84,000 to 86,000, consolidating its position as the number one wedding magazine in New Zealand. The Word for Today also lifted its readership from 163,000 to 183,000, while its sister publication Word for you today moved from 54,000 to 65,000.  

In terms of circulation figures, only Allergy Today and Ohbaby! enjoyed lifts in the number of their magazines. All the other publications suffered dips, which was a similar story for the Simply You publications, which underwent dips in both readership and circulation. 

Habitat magazine did however bring some good news to the segment, enjoying a lift in both readership and circulation. 

Although this edition of the magazine figures will again reiterate that the magazine industry is obviously undergoing a period of transition, it’s worth remembering that many magazines have also followed their audiences online by creating websites—and the Nielsen and ABC’s figures do not take this into consideration. Furthermore, these figures provide only a quantitative reflection of the audiences, and it’s worth noting that research into the quality of the engagement and audiences provided by magazines is also necessary.

Further to this, Nielsen recently announced the release of a new metric called Total Audience Potential (TAP), which will be reported to the industry and provide information on the average number of times readers engage directly with a magazine. This is known as ‘pick-up’ and It enables agencies, clients and publishers to plan magazine campaigns that quantify the total audience potential by incorporating pick-ups into magazine reach and frequency schedules. 

With more sophisticated measurement tools such as these, magazine publishers will be better placed to provide more granular insights to potential advertisers on the people who read their magazines.

  • To see the full report of Nielsen’s readership figures, click here.
  • To see the full report of the ABC’s circulation figures, click here.

*Correction: this article previously incorrectly stated that The TV Guide suffered the worst dip in circulation among the weeklies.

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