MPA Handbook shows successes, pitfalls of mags in 2008

The 2009-2010 Magazine Handbook, released this week by Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), reports that magazine readership and influence remain strong, in spite of slipping ad numbers.

Titled “Magazines, the Medium of Action,” the report showed that the number of adults 18 and older who read magazines has increased, from 179.4 million to 189.7 million, between 2004 and 2008. Of these readers, adults under 35 years old read more issues per month than adults over 35. In fact, 75% of teens read magazines.

Other demographic groups that show a high propensity for magazine reading include African-American adults, who read an average of 13.6 issues per month, compared to the 9.7 issues per month for US adults overall. Hispanic adults, too, read more magazines than average, at 10.0 per month, and 75% of Hispanic adults count themselves as magazine readers. Reflecting the strong support magazines receive from the Hispanic community, the ABC shows that total paid and verified circulation for Hispanic/Latino titles grew by 22.6% between 2004 and 2008.

The overall number of consumer magazines released annually has grown slightly, from 7,188 to 7,383, between 2004 and 2008, though a longer look back reveals that the number of magazines has dropped significantly from a 1999 high of 9,311. The biggest growth categories for consumer magazines in 2008 were metropolitan, regional and state publications, which saw 18 new titles released, and sports, which also had 18 new titles. The crafts, games, hobbies and models category added 14 titles to its ranks. In all, 195 new magazines were released in 2008.

In spite of the growth in readership and titles, ad pages for magazines dropped from 244,737 in 2007 to 220,813 in 2008, and the decline was reflected in ad revenue, which dropped from $25.5 billion to $23.7 billion. Proctor and Gamble was the top magazine advertiser in 2008, spending nearly $900 million, while the second-biggest spender, General Motors, spent roughly half that, at $433 million. Kraft Foods rounded out the top three at just under $390 million.

With print faltering, magazines have looked for — and found — growth online. The number of consumer magazine Web sites has grown 78% since 2005. However, according to the Handbook, the Web may not be as much of a “competitor” to print as people think. Only 10-15% (depending on the editorial category) of dual print and online users strongly agreed with the statement, “Online version could easily replace print version in next five years.”

Additional data cited in the report supports the Handbook’s assertion that magazine advertising remains vibrant: an Experian Simmons Multi-Media Engagement Study showed magazines scoring significantly higher than TV or the Internet in ad receptivity and all other “engagement dimensions,” including trustworthiness, while data from BIGresearch showed that magazines perform better than online media and WOM at pushing consumers to search for merchandise online.

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