Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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Where did magazine readers go?

A friend of mine was moving house and found an old copy of Media Week in his attic.  He gave it to me because it contained an interview with a rather youthful me.  I laughed, as you do when faced with an image of yourself from more than twenty years ago, and then I began to read, not the interview with me (which is toe curling) but everything else.  The year was 1988.

On page three IPC were being roasted for a decline in their paid circulations.   There was no Internet in 1988 – not even email.  Back then we were fighting with the unions to introduce something called “New Technology” – which meant a computer on the desk.  The unions were demanding more pay in return for co-operating with this initiative.  We had no idea just how fundamental the technology was to become to the future of publishing.

In the period Jan to June 1988 the dreadful circulation results of which Media Week complained, were astonishing.  I had forgotten how far we had fallen.  Back then Woman had a circulation of 985903.  Today the same title sells 318301.  Womans Weekly has a circulation today of 338577.  Back in 1988? You won’t believe it.  1240009!

Essentials? 815565 in 1988 but just 115432 today.  Pratical Parenting – surely not a topic that has gone out of fashion, was selling 130000 in 1988.  Today, no longer owned by IPC but by Magicalia, it sells just 23127.

It is not just the consumer titles where readers have fallen out of love with the magazine.  The same issue of Media Week reported that The Grocer had a paid circulation of 54503.  Today it sells 30124.  Caterer & Hotelkeeper, which I published for many years, had a sale of 45632 a week in 1988.  Today it sells just 11234.

So why am I telling you this?  Well nostalgia is always fun but I guess I wanted to share the shock of reading something from more than 20 years ago.  We talk about the changes happening to our industry in measured terms, but we often forget just how far we have come.  The revenue impact of the fall in paid circulation revenue is huge.  Caterer will have lost at least £2m in circulation revenue a year.  Woman’s Weekly perhaps £15-20m.  Add to that the impact on display advertising.  Wow. I don’t have a wonderful insight to share with you about this – just wow!

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September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] Where did magazine readers go? « Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog (tags: magazines circulation) […]

    Pingback by links for 2010-09-28 » Wha'Happened? | September 28, 2010


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