Newsstand sales of magazines dropped 9.6% in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year, as reported by Audit Bureau of Circulation via the New York Times. Top 25 newsstand magazines had a wide range of sales changes (as reported on the ABC site), but many industry stalwarts, such as Cosmopolitan (down 15.5%), People (down 18.6%), Star (down 14.2%), Vogue (down 16.5%) and Vanity Fair (down 18.8%), were down by major double digit percentages.
This follows similar drops in the second half of 2011 (see "Newsstand Mag Sales Tank in 2nd Half of 2011"). And this has been going on for a while; back in 2004, looking at newsstand sales declines of 4.5% was described as "reading the obituaries" (see "Magazine Circulation Drops").
The newsstand sales declines were offset by increases in subscription sales; over-all circulations were down a scant 0.1%. Subscription sales are easier to control using price, and promotional and advertising support.
Regardless, publishers and retailers can’t be happy about the continued declines in newsstand sales. Magazines are in a tough place right now, with the Web able to deliver news and features faster and more economically than print, and household budgets crimped by a bad economy. Losing 600 Borders stores vs. the year ago period also didn’t help.
Digital sales more than doubled, according to the ABC, but still accounted for only about 2% of circulation, offsetting only a small part of the newsstand decline.
Ad sales are also a problem, with ad sales down 8.8% year to date vs. the year ago period according to the New York Times.