NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Michael Jackson tributes and book-a-zines have generated $55 million in additional newsstand sales for magazine publishers, providing one bright spot, however somber, amid widespread newsstand declines so far this year.
“Based on our estimates, we’re at about almost $67 million in Michael Jackson product,” said Gil Brechtel, president-CEO of the Magazine Information Network, often called MagNet, which tracks data from wholesalers and retailers. “Some of that, of course, is People magazine and all that. But these are mostly specials, like the People tribute, an $11.99 product. The industry was able to produce probably $55 million in additional revenue from Michael Jackson magazines and book-a-zines.”
For some context, MagNet projects that magazine retail sales in the U.S. in the first half of 2009 will reach between $1.8 billion and $1.975 billion.
Michael Jackson’s death last June unleashed a flood of memorial media coverage across media. In print, everyone from Time to Us Weekly to Jet converted regular issues into Michael Jackson specials, rushed special issues to newsstands and published book-a-zine tributes. Time magazine, for example, published a 64-page special extra issue on June 29, which retailed for $5.99, with a special Pepsi ad on the back that read, “You will always be the king of pop.”
Ad Age Digital DigitalNext MediaWorks MagNet’s analysis of Michael Jackson’s impact includes July, which won’t help the approaching circulation report covering January through June that’s due Monday from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Early looks at many publishers’ results have suggested that subscriptions held up fine over the first half but that newsstand sales suffered some sharp blows from the recession and a dispute with wholesalers.
New numbers from Hearst Magazines and Conde Nast are further reinforcing that picture.
Hearst said in its report to the Audit Bureau that its titles sold 10% fewer copies on newsstands in the first half than in the first half of 2008. Every title declined, with the biggest losses at Town & Country, down 20%, and Good Housekeeping, down 18%. The smallest declines belonged to Seventeen, where sales slipped just 2%, and House Beautiful, down 4%. The company said its competition, by comparison, lost about 14% of its newsstand sales.
Conde Nast titles lost 12% across the board, including newsstand drops of 25% at Details, 21% at Architectural Digest and Golf Digest, and 20% at Modern Bride. W and Gourmet also reported declines larger than 20%, but cover-price increases were partly to blame. Only GQ posted a gain, with a 7% increase, which Editor in Chief Jim Nelson attributed partly to timely Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Aniston covers.
Conde Nast said it has improved the profitability of its subscription circulation, where it gets an increasing proportion of its overall paid circulation, so newsstand is not quite as important as it once was. “We love the newsstand business,” said Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., group president of Conde Nast Consumer Marketing. “We’d have loved it to be a little better. But our subscription business is quite strong, and it’s so key to our strategy in building strong, qualified readers for our advertisers.”
Newsstand declines aren’t over, but they’ll be less dramatic in the second half, Mr. Sauerberg predicted. “My gut instinct is the rate of decline will lessen,” he said.
MagNet’s Mr. Brechtel, who said the wholesaler problems hurt single-copy sales more than the recession did, agreed that the year should finish stronger than it started. May and June outperformed the first four months of the year, he said, not just because of June’s Michael Jackson coverage but also because those first four months absorbed all the wholesaler fallout.
“It took a little while,” said Ken Godshall, exec VP-consumer marketing at the Magazine Publishers of America. “But it appears newsstand sales started to heal starting in May and June of this year.”
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