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Magazine Circulation Bummer List

Posted by: Jon Fine on February 21, 2006

Magazines sell ads based on rate base. Rate base is circulation you guarantee to advertisers. If you miss rate base, your advertisers sort of have carte blanche to make your life miserable—demand cash or free ads; hammer you for future discounts because your circ is weak, etc.

The following consumer magazines missed rate base for the last half of 2005, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ just-released Fas-Fax report:

Discover (Rate base 850,000; reported circulation 846,712)
Ebony (Rate base 1.6 million; reported circulation 1,480,946)
Fitness (Rate base 1.5 million; reported circulation 1,488,657)
J-14 (Rate base 550,000; reported circulation 500,033)
Parenting* (Paid rate base 1,950,000; reported paid circulation 1,933,929)
Parents* (Paid rate base 2,055,000; reported paid circulation 2,050,920)
Playboy (Rate base 3,150,000; reported circulation 3.005,753)
Soap Opera Digest (Rate base 500,000; reported circulation 494,745)
Soap Opera Weekly (Rate base 225,000; 218,786)
Spin (Rate base 550,000; reported circulation 540,901)
Vibe (Rate base 850,000; reported circulation 836,611)

No Reported Rate Base, But …

National Enquirer’s overall circulation falls 21.3% to 1,177,974, spurred largely by a 24.9% drop in single-copy sales.

More Bad News

The magazine with the single best name in existence, Ducks Unlimited, missed rate base as well. (Rate base 550,000; reported circulation 549,585)

(*-Parenting magazines often combine paid and free circulation in their rate bases.)

Reader Comments


March 7, 2006 2:07 AM

i'm starting a magazine,got any advice Jon

Jon Fine

March 7, 2006 10:28 AM


Think niche, budget conservatively, and make sure it's something readers actually want.


December 2, 2006 4:07 AM

I am thinking of starting a mag. The only part that I have question is in Circulation I can't find ANY information that tells me What IS a magazine Circulation. could you please explain barbedom this terminology. Thaaanks!


February 20, 2007 9:02 PM

wait, did you say you're starting a magazine? well, there's your problem.


March 27, 2007 6:16 PM


March 8, 2009 3:53 PM

thinking of starting a bike magazine and i think it will be going for free how do i go about it? thanks.


April 13, 2009 2:07 PM

What do you think about buying into a magazine franchise vs. starting one from scratch? I'm thinking about franchising a local parenting magazine in my area from a publishing company and letting them handle design and production:


June 5, 2009 1:33 PM

Lynn, don't franchise. Why don't you try blogging? If you generate enough traffic, you could pursue producing your own magazine. Franchising can really lock you up.


June 30, 2009 6:21 PM

Are you for real.....? We have owned a magazine for 11 might want to put a bit of thought into it....Hahaha


August 21, 2009 1:58 PM

Lynn, I think buying into a franchise vs. starting one from scratch could be a good idea depending on how much the franchise fee. I've published a neighborhood magazines for over 8 years and if they will handle design/production it may be worth valuable time and money saved.

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