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September 15, 2018

For Whom the Bell Tolls? A Look at Magazine Average Audience Trends

We’ve spent quite a lot of time in Media Matters disputing the doom and gloom assessments of linear television, but it turns out that maybe media pundits might just want to get the shovel out for another medium—magazines. We joke, of course, but we recently took a look at average audience trends for magazines, and the findings were sobering. Using GfK MRI’s magazine Doublebase data, as reported in its long-running pocketpiece, we took a look at average audiences for a number of magazine genres for 2013, 2017 and 2018. In the short term, the picture for magazines isn’t great, but it’s not dire. Average print audiences for 2018 were down across the board from the previous year, ranging from a scant -.2% for the automotive category, to a more significant -6.9% for fine food. The only two genres to buck the trend were outdoor (essentially flat) and bridal magazines (up nearly 6%). However, if digital editions are factored in to the average audience data, most genres come out slightly ahead of their 2017 numbers.

Obviously, publishers know that digital is the way to go—Conde Nast’s focus on digital content/channels being a notable example—but the numbers only come out slightly ahead compared to last year’s data. As shown in the accompanying table, when we looked back at the same genres for 2013, the picture becomes much bleaker, with half of the genres we examined showing double digit declines over the past five years. It’s unrealistic to expect this downward trend to reverse itself, but with ongoing expansion into digital content, and emphasis on being upscale/niche (rather than as a competitor with mass reach television), an evolved “magazine” medium might live to fight another day.

The Latest on National CPMs for TV, Magazines and Radio

Today marks the release of MDI’s latest edition of CPMTrack, which evaluates and trends national CPM data for TV, magazines and radio for 1960-2018. Despite dire predictions for traditional media (see article above, among others), the numbers were once again up, with predicted average national CPM increases up as follows over 2017 findings:

As readers of this edition will see, there is great variation by daypart/demographics (TV) and by genre/demographics (magazines), but the takeaway is that, although the traditional media suffer from ongoing rating erosion and increasing fragmentation, viewers, listeners and readers still consume vast amounts of each medium. As long as this holds true, each will be able to demand—and get—higher CPMs from advertisers eager to connect with consumers.

For more information on CPMTrack, and to take advantage of the last week to save $50 off the cover price, visit CPMTrack.


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