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Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail
Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail

Canadian magazine sales slip in 2nd half of 2011 Add to ...

Fewer Canadians bought consumer magazines in the second half of 2011, as budget-wary readers backed slowly away from the newsstands and cancelled their print subscriptions.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations said overall circulation dropped almost 5 per cent in Canada, with 6,647,948 copies making their way into the hands of readers. The decline was sharpest among home subscribers, with 4.94 per cent cancelling their deliveries. Newsstand sales fell 2.35 per cent.

While the last half of 2011 saw publishers lose both subscribers and single-copy readers, several of Canada’s largest titles worked to convert casual readers into buyers. It may be a small comfort for an industry that relies on thick subscriber rolls to set advertising rates, but any success is welcome after years of decline.

Maclean’s saw single-copy sales increase by 77 per cent, or 15,831 per edition. Chatelaine, which like Maclean’s is published by Rogers, increased its single-copy sales by 33 per cent. The publishing company’s celebrity magazine Hello Canada saw a 25-per-cent increase in subscribers even as its single-copy sales held steady.

But even the relatively good news about single-copy sales is tarnished with worry – the number of independent bookstores continues to decline and larger retailers have been warning publishers they may change the way they stock their magazine shelves.

“[Stores]have brought in some new regulations about how long they will keep things on the stands,” said Lynn Cunningham, an associate professor at Ryerson University who studies the magazine industry. “People are terrified they will lose their single-copy sales spots.”

Single-copy sales are also problematic for publishers because they are not only unpredictable, they can be expensive. Many of the copies that are printed don’t sell, and printing and distribution is the most expensive line item for the publishers.

“You lose money on every copy you sell on the newsstand,” Ms. Cunningham said. “If you put out 100 copies, if you’re really lucky you’ll sell 40.”

Canada’s top consumer magazine by paid circulation continued to be Reader’s Digest, despite an 11-per-cent drop. Chatelaine was the only Top 10 publication to gain subscribers, up 6 per cent.

Data for the United States showed sales were down 10 per cent in the last half of 2011.

Cosmopolitan was still the top-selling magazine at newsstands, even though its sales declined nearly 7 per cent, selling 1.5 million copies. Woman’s World took the No. 2 spot with 1.2 million copies sold, down 8 per cent. People came in at No. 3, selling 1.1 million copies, a 12-per-cent decline.

AARP the Magazine had the highest circulation, with 22.4 million copies, down 6 per cent from a year earlier.

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