Magazine Circulation Bummer List, First Half ’09 Edition

Posted by: Jon Fine on September 1, 2009

The following magazines missed making rate base for the first six months of 2009, according to the figures released yesterday by Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Which means what? “Rate base” is the minimum circulation level guarantee that magazines offer advertisers. Miss delivering your rate base, and you’re primed to get a hammering from you advertisers the next time they see you—they will demand free ads, demand rate cuts, that sort of thing.

(There is a mysterious art to ensuring a magazine delivers its rate base—which can be surprisingly tricky given how newsstand sales typically fluctuate wildly from issue to issue—and it is an art I will never properly understand, but perhaps a sympathetic reader with serious circulation-geek tendencies can explain it.)

Many of the larger magazines below—First For Women, tween mag J-14, teen mag Twist and Woman’s World--are published by Bauer Publications, which is best-known for In Touch. (In Touch barely made rate base this time around, delivering to advertisers a scant 519 copies above its rate base of 800,000.) Earlier this year a dispute with magazine distributors noticeably disrupted single-copy sales, and all of Bauer’s magazines sell an unusually high percentage of magazines that way.

And apparently it’s an unusually tough time, circulation-wise, for city and regional magazines as well.

AAA Hawaii Westways (Rate base 73,000; reported circulation 72,074)
Athlon Basketball (Rate base 200,000; reported circulation 153,065)
The Atlantan (Rate base 50,000; reported circulation 49,986)
Chicago (Rate base 165,000; reported circulation 160,092)
Connecticut Magazine (Rate base 85,000; reported circulation 83,837)
First For Women (Rate base 1,350,000; reported circulation 1,270,561)
J-14 (Rate base 450,000; reported circulation 402,667)
Jet (Rate base 900,000; reported circulation 871, 614)
OK! (Rate base 900,000; reported circulation 809,292. OK!’s parent company cut rate base to 800,000 just before the Audit Bureau issued its figures, too late for it to avoid a very big miss in the first half of ‘09.)
Playboy (Rate base 2,600,000; reported circulation 2,453,266)
The Rotarian (Rate base 487,000; reported circulation 475,815)
Soaps In Depth ABC (Rate base 200,000; reported circulation 189,973)
Sport Fishing (Rate base 145,000; reported rate base 143,395)
Today’s Creative Home Arts (Rate base 300,000; reported circulation 299,292)
Twist (Rate base 250,000; reported circulation 215,639)
Woman’s World (Rate base 1,400,000; reported circulation 1,280,699)
Workbench (Rate base 280,000; reported circulation 250,994)

Reader Comments


September 1, 2009 11:04 PM

Am I right to presume that Rate Base is usually low and something that most magazines easily surpass? Or is it generally kept high enough to get better fees?

I was surprised, recently, when looking at home redecorating mags, how many had cover prices of $10-25. I could not imagine spending $10+ on a magazine, but $23?

Jon Fine

September 2, 2009 10:46 AM

For big mass-market magazines, you want to keep rate base as high as possible in order to get as much as possible for ads. Ads provide the overwhelming majority of revenue for these titles. The kind of decorating/design mags you're talking about are more specialized and pricey. I just bought a copy of Italy's Domus mag for over $30, horrified as I am to admit it.

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