Magazine readership and circ figures: familiar ups and downs, but advertisers keep the faith

Despite predictions of an imminent demise for the magazine industry amid the incursion of online media and a constant consumer thirst for up-to-the minute news, circulation and readership figures for many of the nation’s publications have remained strong.

In numerical terms, NZ House and Garden saw the biggest increase in readership, up four percent to 515,000 from last year’s corresponding figure of 494,000.

However, when the readership lifts were reflected as a percentage, Nielsen’s readership data released last week shows that the standout performers over the last year were Simply You Living, Bride & Groom, Habitat, NZ Life & Leisure and Wild Tomato, with each of these publication enjoying significant year-on-year lifts. 

The most recent circulation data (dated 30 September 2015) for these five publications tells a slightly different story. Simply You Living has seen a year-on-year dip in circulation, dropping from 12,694 paid magazines to 12,605. Bride & Groom shed over 400 magazines as it dropped from 5,997 a year ago to 5,551 most recently.

Due to the continued investment of Resene in Habitat, the publication’s circulation increased from  276,666 to 292,574 in the latest figures (however, these aren’t paid subs).

The major winner at the recent Magazine Media Awards was NZ Life & Leisure, and this isn’t altogether surprising given that the publication has successfully managed to not only increase its readership but also sell more magazines, with its circulation lifting from  31,701 magazines last year to 33,780 most recently.   

Wild Tomato was not included in the ABC’s stats (see the full circulation data here).

As is usually the case with the magazine figures, there was also bad news for the some of the publications included in the respective surveys.

The Red Bulletin, Trade a Boat, Cleo, Boating New Zealand and FishHead each shed significant percentages of their readership.

And while there was no circulation data available for The Red Bulletin, Trade a Boat or FishHead, teen publication Cleo saw its circulation drop from 4483 to 3415, while Boating New Zealand’s numbers slipped from 7,957 to 7,293.

It was also a tough year for Metro magazine, which shed 15 percent of its readers as it slipped year on year from a reach of 153,000 to 130,000.

Other publications to lose a significant percentage of readers over the last year were Homestyle (down 20 percent), Farm Trader (down 14 percent), Little Treasures (down 13 percent), Next (down 11 percent), Parenting Magazine (down 11 percent),  

There were also dips for the most widely read publications, with AA Directions slipping from 754,000 to 738,000, while Skywatch has fallen seven percent (slipping from 693,000 readers to 646,000). 

Over the last year, media consumption habits have continued to be heavily influenced by digital channels and this also impacted the choices shoppers make in stores. 

Nielsen data on consumer items purchased in supermarkets shows that magazines have fallen from 50th place last year to 56th and now contribute a total sales volume of just over $70 million.      

However, the performance of print magazines cannot be viewed in isolation. 

Magazine Publishers Association chief executive Pip Elliott says that many publishers are also doing great work in the online space, pointing to the examples of Bauer’s new online brands (Food to Love and Homes to Love) as well as Tangible Media’s work with Dish

She says the industry is currently working on how it can improve its measurement of total brand audiences for magazines across both print and digital.

Elliott also makes the point ad spend on magazines has remained consistent over the last few years, and that some major advertisers are increasing their spend in the channel. 

This statement rings true with Nielsen research showing that six of the ten largest advertisers, including big names like Unilever, L’Oreal and Colgate Palmolive, increased their total spend on magazine advertising over the last year. 

On a related note, WPP founder Martin Sorrell recently said at the Future Forum conference in Sydney the pendulum had in some ways shifted too far across to digital, and that we were likely to see it coming back to traditional channels. 

He was, however, quick to point out that things would never return to how they once were and that media publishers would have to continue restructuring to compete effectively against international players like Facebook and Google.       

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