Magazine readership and circulation stats: bad news for weeklies, but some mags enjoy growth

Nielsen recently released the readership figures for Q4 2013, and, in spite of all the doomsday prophecies, the statistics showed year-on-year growth (in readership) for 20 of the magazines surveyed.  

As usual, we’ll start with the positives by giving a breakdown of the publications that enjoyed a year-on-year increase in readership.

All three six-monthly publications surveyed enjoyed growth in readership from the previous year. Habitat grew from 163,000 to 173,000 readers, Simply You enjoyed an increase from 94,000 to 107,000 and Simply You Living jumped up from 69,000 to 87,000. Circulation figures did not prove as promising, with only Habitat showing growth in this department.


Given that Bauer recently completed the acquisition of Simply You and Simply You Living from APN, it should come as little surprise that the publisher welcomed the news regarding readership.

“In the fashion and beauty vertical, with Simply You joining the portfolio, Bauer Media women’s titles will be inspiring and styling more than 1.1 million women’s wardrobes across the country … Simply You brings a sophisticated new audience that has increased 13.8 per cent year on year …  [And] Simply You Living [is]also showing strong momentum with readership up 26 percent year on year,” said a release from Bauer.

Good news was also evident among the quarterly publications, where Hunting & Fishing New Zealand and OhBaby! each saw their readership figures increase. The recreation magazine’s readership increased from 545,000 to 564,000, while the parenting mag jumped from 64,000 to 85,000. ABC does not have circulation figures for Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, but OhBaby! remained reasonably stable as it dropped from 12,900 to 12,600. 

The bi-monthly section holds four winners with Dish increasing its readership from 151,000 to 164,000, Good going up from 44,000 to 64,000, Home New Zealand rising from 73,000 to 97,000 and NZ Fishing World jumping from 155,000 to 159,000. The four magazines were however split in two pairs when it came to circulation figures, as only Good and Dish saw an increase. 

In the monthly section, eight magazines, predominantly special interest publications, also enjoyed readership growth: Boating NZ lifted its readership from 132,000 to 167,000, Farm Trader hit the ton as it stepped from 95,000 to 103,000, Mindfood grew from 190,000 to 222,000, North & South enjoyed a jump from 259,000 to 264,000, NZ Gardener rose from 310,000 to 332,000, NZ Good Health went from 165,000 to 185,000, NZ House and Garden’s readership grew from 546,000 to 554,00, and Trade-A-Boat went from 54,000 to 59,000. 

When it came to circulation figures, there were no statistics available for Trade-A-Boat or Farm Trader, and the remaining titles remained stable. 

The Weekend Gardener, the only fortnightly publication surveyed, also had a good year, as its year-on-year readership increased by 6,000 moving it from 133,000 to 139,000. ABC also did not have any recent statistics related to the circulation of the Weekend Gardener.

Once again, most of the bad news starts in the weeklies. None of the publications surveyed in this category enjoyed any readership growth, and the magazines targeted at women suffered the biggest year-on-year drops.

New Idea lost 65,000 readers as it dropped from 443,000 to 378,000, NZ Woman’s Weekly lost 61,000 as its readership decreased from 806,000 to 745,000 and Woman’s Day saw an exodus of 55,000 readers as its readership stats dropped from 822,000 to 767,000.   

Other losers in the weekly category included the NZ Listener, which had readership drop from 262,000 to 236,000 and NW, which slid from 100,000 to 89,000.

The circulation figures in the weekly category told the same story, as every publication (for which statistics were available) suffered a drop.

In contrast to the good news that came with the acquisition of the Simply You magazines, Bauer also finds itself on the opposite side of the scale when it comes to the readership statistics of its weekly acquisitions, the NZ Listener and NZ Woman’s Weekly.

Paul Dykzeul, the Bauer chief executive, addresses this area of concern by pointing out the company has enjoyed readership gains in other areas.

“While the year-on-year readership comparisons for many magazines don’t look all that favourable, it’s important to put that into context. In recent years the industry has seen some incredibly high readership peaks and the reality is that Bauer’s current portfolio still has more readers today than five years ago. Add to this our new titles’ readership and all the new brand touch points through social media, apps, e-newsletters, websites and events and you have a very powerful customer connection,” he says in the release (neither Fairfax, Tangible or the MPA sent releases about their numbers). 

Women’s magazines also took a hit in the monthly section as Australian Women’s Weekly (739,000 to 640,000), Cleo (153,000 to 101,000) and Cosmopolitan (199,000 to 157,000) all suffered significant readership drops.

And it appears that the trend is also affecting the younger generation, because Crème (174,000 to 149,000) and Girlfriend (178,000 to 153,000) both saw the departure of a high number of readers.

Standing in opposition of the suggestion that special interest magazines are successful is NZ Performance Car, which saw a year-on-year readership drop from 332,000 to 270,000, making it the second worst performer in the monthly section, after SkyWatch, which dropped from 975,000 to 858,000.

The other significant drop in the monthly section came from Reader’s Digest, which waved goodbye to 56,000 readers as its year-on-year readership diminished from 363,000 to 307,000.

These results were mirrored in the circulation figures, which also showed declines for every publication. 

Although the bi-monthly publications enjoyed greater stability, there were also two significant drops.

Food’s loss of 56,000 readers was the highest in this category, and it meant that the publication’s year-on-year readership dropped from 326,000 to 270,000. The other major loser was Little Treasures, which slipped from a readership of 242,000 to 202,000.

AA Directions’ year-on-year readership dropped from 893,000 to 842,000 and Family Care’s statistics fell from 76,000 to 42,000. 

While there were no ANP circulation stats available for AA Directions or Family Care, those collected for Food and Little Treasures showed a year-on year decline. 

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