In Circulation: Regional Magazines

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New numbers from The National Directory of Magazines recently made the headlines. The big news: Regional magazines constituted the largest magazine category — with 1,126 titles — in 2008.

It's an impressive number, but I wouldn't break out the celebratory cupcakes just yet. For one, the number has gone down since 2007, when regional magazines numbered 1,138. In addition, if you think about it, it's only reasonable that regional magazines outnumber other, more general, magazine categories. After all, they are designed to appeal to an ever-growing, ever-fragmenting number of niche audiences.

As direct marketers know, American consumers belong to more categories — and more narrowly defined categories — than ever before. Regional magazines are simply playing catch-up with this proliferation of exclusive customer segments. Basic city, state and region-focused magazines still exist, but more lifestyles are being added to the mix, bringing readers luxury regional magazines, such as Chicago's Michigan Avenue; athletics-focused regional magazines, such as Boston's new OT; and outdoorsy regional titles, such as Carolina Gardener.

Each regional magazine still caters to a geographic area, but more seem to cater to specific personae within that area. For example, Ken Sheldon, circulation director for New York magazine, said in an interview with DMNews that his reader was the hip, classy New Yorker personified by Sarah Jessica Parker or her Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw.

Not every regional magazine is quite so specific in defining its audience, but the message is clear: Just like consumers of every other medium, magazine readers are demanding more targeted messaging. They want a product that speaks specifically to their lifestyle, and, judging from the numbers, if there's not one out there yet, someone will probably launch one soon.

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