Budget Living By The Numbers

Posted by: Jon Fine on February 15, 2006

Budget Living magazine died, not particularly quietly, on Valentine’s Day.

This follows a moderately illustrious three-year run in which it won Launch of the Year honors at Adweek and Advertising Age (disclosure: As part of a small-team at Ad Age that decided such things, I pushed for Budget Living to win that award) and also won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. For whatever that’s all worth, that is. Past National Magazine Award winners like the long-defunct Seven Days can tell you how little such plaudits and kudos-from-your-peers mean to the bottom line.

It was an interesting magazine, especially when run by its colorful founding editor/brand embodiment Sarah Gray Miller, who departed abruptly last year. But—well, again, the bottom line thing, especially for independent magazines, and doubly-especially for magazines run by serial entrepreneur Don Welsh, whose business it is to invent and then sell magazines. (He’s done this twice before.)

Kyle at Big & Sharp runs math and wonders why it’s closing. According to his figuring, it took in $1.7 million in ad revenue in its December issue:

From a stricly publishing sense, Budget Living should be doing just fine. I took a look at the numbers:

Circulation: 512,000
(I posted the BPA Worldwide statement here)

1x Full Page Open Rate: $39,375
(Source: BL Media Kit; I posted it here)

Dec ‘05 Issue Ad/Edit Ratio (in %): 43.5/56.5

Projected Dec ‘05 Revenue (Open Rate - 20% x 53.12 [pages])= $1,673,280

That’s not too shabby. For those of you paying attention, the December issue (they didn’t publish their Jan/Feb ‘06 issue — the first sign of trouble) trumped Cargo’s December ad percentage rate by 26.5%. So, what gives?

( … )

Put this in perspective: That’s (on the low side) roughly $17 million annually for their ten issues. And that doesn’t include subscription and newstand revenue to boot.

What gives is this:

1. Assuming Budget Living gets 80% of its stated ad rates is wildly optimistic. 50% is a more realistic starting point. And in the cases of independently-owned magazines that give off a whiff of trouble—like, say, the sudden and simultaneous departure of its top editors and general market repositioning, even 50% may be wildly optimistic. So let’s halve Kyle’s math to get us to around $850,000 in ad revenue for December—and realize that, too, might be kind. And remember that December is reliably one of the most ad-fat issues of the year, if not the fattest outright.

2. Unlike Cargo, Budget Living is not part of Conde Nast, which has deep pockets, revenues measured in the billions, and thus can afford to show some patience with money-losing titles.

3. As with many major magazines, it’s a mistake to assume that Budget Living’s circulation is profitable. Keeping subscribers onboard is a major pain at almost every magazine; “acquisition costs” can easily outstrip how much subscribers pay.

4. Before going under Budget Living announced they were cancelling their January-February issue, which is A. really not a good sign at all and B. a hint that ad sales were lousy.

5. Budget Living had been officially for sale long before late last year and de facto for sale pretty much forever. No takers ever bit.

I’d be surprised if Budget Living was profitable at all when Welsh decided to shutter it.

It was a good magazine, but as the New Yorker of yore, the Atlantic Monthly of today, and about a thousand other magazines can tell you, “good” doesn’t equal “profit.”

Reader Comments

Don

February 15, 2006 12:00 PM

How common are advertising discount deals with major and independent magazines and how deep are the percentages normally? In general, is EVERY ad subsidized? Are ads subsidized when bought across multiple issues or multiple ads within the same issue by a conglomerate, etc? Are there articles discussing ad discounts in magazines?

Don

Jon Fine

February 15, 2006 12:14 PM

Don:

In order: Very and variable but significant; not every one but close enough; not subsidized but discounted; Advertising Age used to do a survey on what kind of magazines offered up what kind of discounts--and I always felt the discounts they arrived understated the situation.

Jon

Victoria Smith

March 6, 2006 12:25 PM

And what is particularly disturbing about this, is that I just recieved a renewal notice in the mail (dated 3/3/06) when the magazine is already shutting down. How greedy and unconscionable is that?

Claire Hallancia

March 15, 2006 9:07 AM

I just started a three year subscription now what. Customer service keeps referring me to the website, but I find no information there. Will there be any compensation?

Susan

March 20, 2006 11:28 AM

Someone has to hold these publishers accountable when people pay for subscriptions and the magazines close up shop, leaving those customers high and dry. It is bad for the business in general and makes one leery of entering a long-term subscription to anything.

If another magazine were smart, it would take up the subscriber list as a good-will gesture.

Sarah

March 23, 2006 11:06 PM

Is there anyone I can contact about my budget living subscription? I just renewed for 2 years in December and never received an issue. Is this basically a lost cause, or is there someone who can do something about this? There are thousands of subscribers affected, hopefully someone will step in.

Kristene

March 27, 2006 12:42 AM

This is pissing me off.

Where is the MONEY? I am guessing these people are not "budget" living as they produced NOTHING for my dollar.
All these people sent in for their own, and in my case my own and a gift subsctiption, and I have NO clue where that money is now and cannot even find somewhere to ask about it.

Nadine

March 29, 2006 12:04 PM

Everyone please file a complaint to the NYC consumer affairs office. Here is the info someone posted in another forum:

The website for NYC consumer affairs is:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/html/home/home.shtml
then click on file a complaint. Can be done right over the internet. From my experience with consumer affairs, if enough people file a complaint they will investigate.

Brian

March 29, 2006 2:24 PM

So now what? The Budget Living "800" number has been busy all day! No one will pick up the phone at the non "800" number only voice mails. My bank won't do anything about what is now appearing to be fraudulant charges...

Is this really how things work in the magazine world? You get to take everyones renewal money and run? Hell - I never even got a letter or phone call stating the business was going under - it just stopped showing up.

I guess the next step is to contact the Better Business Bureau? Local television? what? Man this ticks me off.

Kara

March 29, 2006 10:23 PM

Generally, a magazines staff are not allowed to inform its readers of a cease in pulbication.
When a publisher goes bankrupt or whatever term you want to use, the staff have no recourse. The actual staff of the mag are not the ones sending out your renewal cards etc.
They are long gone and working at new jobs.

To those of you who think youll get your money back, get a grip on reality and the magazine publishing business.
As for recieving subscription notices in the mail and still seeing ads, often times third party vendors are clueless about the actual workings of the magazine.
I am techniclly part of a
"class action lawsuit" aganist vanguarde media, the people who published Heart and Soul, Savoy and Honey mag, and the lawsuit is well over 2 years old and no progress has been made.

Marilyn Kendrick

May 1, 2006 5:43 PM

I sent in a payment for a year's subscription on February 4, 2006. Do you believe there's a possibly that back issues can be obtained?

Kim

May 2, 2006 1:46 PM

I ordered this magazine through halfpricedmags.com in Sept. 2005. For my first magazine I received the December issue in late March. I called the 800# from the reorder card in the magazine. I spoke to customer service and I was told they would change my subscription expiration date from 11/06 to 4/07. This is very disturbing because I have spent a lot of time trying to get a hold of anyone at BL to see when my magazine would come. I googled for the 800# again and this time I came across this article.
I'm going to the web site for nyc.gov consumer affairs and file my complaint. Thank you for the web address!!
I didn't "Budget" for this :o)

Jordana

May 2, 2006 3:54 PM

Gosh...I'm so glad I stumbled on this web blog! I mean. I had NO idea that BL Mag was out of print! I've been trying to contact them since Dec 2005 and have had absolutely no luck...busy numbers, no replies to my emails! I mean, after the news of the magazine going out of print went public, why couldn't a mass email go out to its subscribers! Even better, instead of using subscription money to print and send renewal cards, they should have sent "we are out of business, we will refund you soon" notices.

I will be sure to contact Consumer Affairs...thanks for posting that website!

How ironic...BL taught the reader how to spend money wisely...ha...the lesson here is that magazine subscriptions are an unwise investment!

One final thought: If we all stop subscribing to magazines, then we won't have to deal with wasted money! Some books cost as much as a magazine...why don't we just focus our attention on those! And newspapers come cheap let's read those! And the ultimate in cost-effective reading...the web! Honestly, who needs magazines!

Candice

May 8, 2006 8:01 PM

This is very disturbing. I am just finding out that BL Magazine is out of print, and what's worse, I have tried, 3 times, to "renew" my subscription. I "renewed" twice last year, and did not receive any issues, and then again earlier this year, and, obviously received no issues. I just want to know where my money is and how I can get it back. It is very aggravating to shell out money for a product that I am not receiving and even more frustrating when the company you are giving money to knows they are not going to be around and still take your money, anyway. Something needs to be done about this, if not a refund, then at least a subscription to an equally appealing magazine from another source.

Gail Pierce

May 9, 2006 10:58 AM

I'm so sorry that the magazine closed.But, I never received my first issue.Who do I contact for a refund.I tried there email address,and also tried to call. I'll take back issues,but I want an answer from someone at the company. Thank you.

Jon Fine

May 9, 2006 11:10 AM

Gail:

Seeing that Budget Living was run by a company that no longer exists, the magazine isn't making it easy for people to get their money back.

The owner is named Donald Welsh, who works in New York City, and some sleuthing online might reveal a new business address/phone for him. I would also file a complaint at the Consumer Affairs web site listed above.

Typically a dead magazine sells its subscription list to another company, so you should get a notice from that magazine offering you the chance to get your money back before they start sending you that magazine. (Note use of the word "should.")

Jon

Susan

May 10, 2006 6:32 PM

If you go to Budget Living's website, you can see that Hearst Magazine took over the subscriptions and your replacement issues of a Hearst magazine (which one? who knows?) will start in June...

http://www.budgetlivingmedia.com/issue200622/index.php

I'm so bummed. It was literally my favorite magazine out of my 10 subscriptions and I recommended it to EVERYONE I knew....

TJ

May 11, 2006 8:29 AM

I too am glad I found this entry, as I was wondering what happened. (Thank you!) I really miss Budget Living.

I gave the Budget Living web site a closer read:

"Special arrangements have been made with Hearst magazines -- publishers of Good Housekeeping, Redbook, House Beautiful, Marie Claire and Shop, Etc. -- to service the subscription of QUALIFYING READERS for its full remaining term." (Emphasis is mine.)

Qualifying readers? What the heck does that mean?

Being that I'm a Budget Living subscriber, I could probably do without a subscription to Hearst's Shop, Etc. ;)

Carly

June 14, 2006 9:22 PM

Now I understan why I just got a SHOP magazine in the mail...BL out of business huh? Loved BL, it too was the favorite of the many that I get, passed them on to others who also loved it...Thank goodness I found this site! SHOP is one dumb magazine by the way, I want to SAVE $$$?

Kathleen

June 26, 2006 8:10 PM

Why would anyone want Shop Etc, when they subscribed to Budget Living for cryingoutloud!! And why were they allowed to keep soliciting subscriptions when they were already shut down? This is ridiculous! I did go to Shop Etc and tried to cancel a subscription that I never ordered, we will see if they will refund my money.

Leigh

July 6, 2006 9:06 PM

I'm really bummed about this myself. I had the subscription for a couple years. But last fall I didn't renew it for some reason and kept meaning to contact them to renew because I was really missing the magazine. Now I'm realizing I'm one of the lucky ones who didn't renew. We will all have to keep an eye out for a comparable magazine to take BL's place one day.

And how ironic that they send SHOP in place of BL haha - just downright funny! That is a bad choice of mag on Hearst's part. The only Hearst mag worth anything is Good Housekeeping. Maybe if you receive SHOP you can call and request a different mag sold by the same company.

Best of Luck to all of us to find a replacement for BL. If I run across anything, I will definitely let all of you know:)

Amanda

July 7, 2006 4:32 PM

I too had no idea that BL stopped publishing. Suddenly I started receiving House Beautiful in the mail, 2 issues at once, and then about 2 weeks later received a letter saying BL went under and they were fulfilling my subscription with House Beautiful. Ah, the irony, as though I would be remotely interested in a snooty rag full of WAY overpriced furnishings. Sigh. I miss BL.

Leigh

July 10, 2006 3:35 PM

I miss it too! There is truthfully no other magazine comparable! House Beautiful is filled with overpriced items from front to back! And SHOP - well its self explanatory:) I'm considering starting a "budget living" newsletter or website now that this great mag has gone under!

S

July 11, 2006 4:40 PM

Totally miss Budget Living, started to get Marie Claire which is much, much more vapid than Shop Etc (which my mom got for the gift BL subscription I got her). Googled for a customer service number for Shop and was quickly and easily able to switch from MC to Shop. I'm sure you could do it for other Hearst Mags.
The number was 800-759-4504.

Hey anyone track down the editor Sarah Miller and find out what really happened?

Thank you Hearst for stepping into the void. I'm sure their efforts wont go unnoticed.

kristi

August 10, 2006 4:15 PM

Wow, glad to finally know what happened. I am extremely disappointed. Budget Living was my favorite magazine, and now I am recieving House Beautiful to make up for my subscription. It's terrible! I've looked through the 5 issues they sent me within a 2 month time span (what's up with that, by the way?) and have yet to find anything remotely cool. Blueprint (Martha Stewart's new mag) is trying to be like Budget Living, but everything featured is so expensive. Why is it all of the good magazines die?

Chet

August 18, 2006 11:48 AM

I paid for a FOUR YEAR subscription to Budget Living in October of 2005. I got two issues, and not this past month I started getting Redbook. Can I say a facetious, yeah! I tried contacting Hearst because now they have sent me a renewal notice to my Redbook subscription. What happened to the FOUR YEARS I already paid for? Four years of $$$ for two issues of BL and two issues of Redbook. What a bunch of crap! I even tried to contact Hearst, but they do not have a listed phone number. If anyone has it, please post it here.

MaryfromRI

August 22, 2006 1:38 PM

I got the same letter saying I would get Redbook. No big deal for me,although I do miss BL. They probably use a method based on your age and how long you've subscribed or where you live..who knows. anyways I only found their corporate listing. Hope it helps:
Hearst Corporation
1790 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
(212) 841-8402
(212) 247-2305 (fax)

Email: mmayorhearst.com

http://www.hearstcorp.com

LGM

August 26, 2006 8:03 AM

Hearst announced yesterday that they will be closing Shop Etc.

Sarah

August 26, 2006 5:19 PM

Arg! I have a subscription to Budget Living through '08 and have not even received a new subscription to an alternative magazine.
Now I hear that Hearst is supposed to cancel Shop Etc. as well as Weekend, which is brand new and I JUST ordered a year's subscription for.

Lisa

November 2, 2006 12:58 PM

I just found this blog and thank God because I was trying to find BL and couldn't. I LOVED the magazine and recommended it to all of my friends. It sure didn't help matters that I could never find it in an airport or a Borders or Barnes & Noble. If anyone really does find the inside scoop on why the editor left please post it here.

april

December 11, 2006 8:05 PM

Hi,

My name is April and I am the customer service manager at halfpricedmags. I am posting on this forum to let you know that I apologize for any issues you previously experienced with halfpricedmags. I have a new dedicated team in place and I am going to work their butt until every single customer is pleased with their magazine subscription experience.

halfpricedmags goal is to revolutionize the magazine subscriptions industry by offering an unparalleled customer experience.

Please feel free to contact me directly at april@halfpricedmags.com and let me know how I can help.

Best Regards,
April

Julie

February 8, 2007 6:08 PM

Does anyone know where to find old issues of BL? I used to subscribe and there are a few articles that I have been looking for that were in past magazines. Thanks in advance for any input!

Shelly

February 14, 2007 3:02 PM

It's February 2007 and I am working on a magazine sales fundraiser. I saw several magazines that I was interested in (at such a low price!) and decided to do a little research on my choices. Guess which magazine is on the fundraiser company's website? You guessed it! Budget Living...Boy am I ever glad that I did my research & stumbled upon this info!

cinamon

April 13, 2007 8:14 PM

I do believe the magazine was excellent when Sarah Gray Miller was editor-which she moved to Instyle Homes Magazine. BL had a flow and it was sassy as well as savvy to be a unique second hand shopper and thrifty persona. The sale of being a smart creative buyer was sold. I bought it hook line and sinker. Sadly, I noticed the very issue she left. The writing began to sell thrifty was cheap and get your moneys worth or else vibe... and the sass was forced and hardly believable. How can you sell advertising when the creation of an image has dissovled? Instyle Homes has higher priced items, but the same flair of BL as far as unique finds and individuality still comes out. Because of BL and Instyle Homes...I continue to Follow Sarah Gray Millers Career!!!

Karen

November 17, 2007 2:33 AM

I remember when Mobile PC magazine closed they at least gave me a free subscription to another reutable magazine and I didn't have to do anything. At least I got something for my money!!

Jeannie

January 4, 2009 6:25 PM

If ever a magazine were to be resurrected, BUDGET LIVING should be the one. It's the right publication, at the right time, now that our nation's economic system is in such turmoil.

And for "Julie": you can try to get old issues of BL on eBay, but they can be pricey.

debbie

June 9, 2009 12:24 PM

It's the only magazine I subscribed to. I guess I can understand the going out of business thing but who decided to send me Marie St Claire to replace it? Does it sound like I'm a Marie St Claire kinda person? Please bring back BL!!

Nikki

July 18, 2009 5:44 PM

I so miss Budget Living. When they went out of business, I hit up Ebay and got all the issues that I didn't already have, minus one, which I am still looking for. I loved the vintage vibe that it had and of course the helpful hints on saving money that it provided. I miss Budget Living! *sigh*

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