Magazine readership suffers single-digit decline

ABC reports that subscriptions and single-copy sales in 2009 continue to take a tumble. The good news is that the declines are in the low single digits, with a number of winners scoring significant gains in circulation and sales.

The Canadian magazine industry is still ailing.

According to the latest report released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), readership is still suffering a decline, with paid and verified circulation and single-copy sales taking a hit at the conclusion of 2009.

A small consolation – if you could call it that – is that the drops in both categories have slowed to the low single digits: total paid and verification readership in Dec. 2009 was down 3.78%, or 269,877 fewer readers (paid subscribers slumped to 3.25%, or 180,382 readers) compared with Dec. 2008, while ABC reports 4.34%, or 53,494 fewer consumers, bought newsstand copies.

While still somewhat grim, both figures show improvement over the 2008-over-2007 stats, where year-to-year paid/verification numbers were down 5.29% and single-copy sales plummeted a whopping 23.63%.

The title to bear the brunt of the biggest paid subscription drop was Profit, which lost 91.2% and watched its subscription base plummet to 436. Flare also took a 16.4% hit, as did the Canadian Wildlife Federation mag Wild, with a 17.8% loss. In single-copy sales, the three largest newsstand losers were Montreal publications Montreal Centre-Ville with a 71% decrease; Fleures Plants Jardins losing 51% of its spontaneous sales, and Elle Canada reeling from a 44.6% blow. The economy also took a single-copy sales bite out of Today’s Parent (24.9%), Canadian Reader’s Digest English edition (23.5%); Chatelaine English edition (18.4%), Fashion (16.8%) and Maclean‘s (14.8%).

However, Maclean‘s staff had a reason to celebrate: paid subscriptions jumped 13.4% in 2009, the third-best increase in Canada in 2009. Hello! led the new subscription intake with a whopping 65.9% leap into the black, and Star Inc. enjoyed a sizeable 19.4% increase.

Gaining significant traction in single-copy sales were Canadian Business with a 78% newsstand jump; L’Actualite with a 53.4% increase; Flare compensating a little for its subscription loss with a soaring 43.3% increase and The Beaver (which will relaunch as Canada’s History in April) building a 30.4% gain.

Shopping magazine LouLou continued to improve with a 27.4% surge in single-copy sales of its English edition, although it was outgunned by its French-language counterpart that shone with an increase of 46.2%.

The circulation report, issued by ABC, covers the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2009 and includes a comparison for a similar reporting period the year before.