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Magazines Continue to Suffer

Magazines
Magazines

Buying a magazine at a newsstand is quite the impulse purchase. These days you can get most magazine content online, for free, or at least something pretty comparable. And if you really want to flip through those glossy pages every week, but you're looking to save money, a subscription saves as much as 90 percent off newsstand prices.

Needless to say it's no surprise that newsstand magazine sales dropped 12 percent in the first half of the year compared to the first half of 2008; over the previous six month period that drop was 11 percent. While subscriptions did increase slightly, not enough to compensate for the decline at newsstands, and total circulation was down 1 percent for the period.

The decline in newsstand magazine purchases may be an indicator of consumer confidence - people are watching their discretionary spending - but I'd argue that newsstand magazine revenues are unlikely to recover when consumer spending does. There are too many free, online options and people are getting increasingly accustomed to consuming content on their mobile devices and laptops. As content companies figure out how to distribute more content to your iPhone or cell phone people may not need to shell out $5 as frequently for their glossy fill of celebrity gossip and photos. That's not to say that the magazine business will go away. People will still buy magazines, they may just get used to this reduced magazine spending level we're at now.

Of course magazines' struggles with circulation come on top of the advertising decline that's hit the entire print journalism business. Take a look at the magazines at the newsstand or in your mailbox this month. September is supposed to be a big month for ad sales, but you'll notice that the magazines will be remarkably skinny. If they don't fatten up by the end of the year we're sure to see more magazines shut down. Last month Time Inc. stopped publishing "Southern Accents" magazine, jut the latest magazine closure in the home decor space where ad revenue has fallen more than 20 percent.

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It's not just the commercial magazine business that's suffering, business-to-business magazine ad pages fell 30.15 percent in the first half of the year, compared to the year-earlier period, according to Business Information Network data. And the trends didn't improve over that 6-month period. In June ad pages were down nearly 33 percent from the year-earlier month.

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