Flare magazine, one of Canada's premium fashion monthlies aimed at millennials, will be abandoning newsstands in the new year, after its publisher came to believe the old-fashioned sales venue was no longer a useful way of reaching younger readers.
"I'm not confident in the effectiveness of having it there," said Melissa Ahlstrand, the group publisher of Rogers Media Inc.'s Flare and Hello! Canada.
The move, effective January, 2016, may signal a growing shift among publishers away from traditional sales in order to court readers more aggressively through digital and other channels.
Single-copy sales of Flare had fallen sharply in recent years, from an average of more than 12,000 a month in 2012 (when those copies represented 9.6 per cent of total circulation) to approximately 2,600 per month in the first half of 2015 (or only 2.8 per cent of total circulation), according to data submitted to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
The drop mirrors developments across the Canadian magazine industry, including Rogers Media, where consumer publications have been working to increase their circulation on digital platforms, such as the Texture (formerly Next Issue) app, which is partly owned by Rogers.
In 2012, Rogers's Today's Parent sold an average of just over 7,000 copies at the newsstand, representing 4.4 per cent of its circulation. In the first half of 2015, it sold about 1,600 copies, or 1.5 per cent of its total paid circulation. (About 20,000 digital copies are now downloaded monthly.)
Rogers's Sportsnet sold an average of 5,400 single copies in 2012, or 7.4 of its total circulation; that number is now down to only 750, leading to speculation within the industry that it, too, will soon come off newsstands. (Rogers declined to comment on those rumours.)
Only a few years ago, single-copy sales were taken as a key indicator of a magazine's "heat" among readers, a metric that ad buyers followed closely. "That used to be a measurement we looked at," Ms. Ahlstrand acknowledged. "We do not look at that any more."
Rather, she said, Flare is trying to engage readers where they live: largely on social-media platforms. "We want to be the disruptors. We want to be, like, what does a magazine brand mean?" she said. "We're not really tying ourselves to benchmarks."
Over the past three years, Flare's digital circulation has grown to an average of approximately 28,000 copies, or almost 29 per cent of its circulation.
"Whether it be through Texture or Snapchat or Periscope or print, we want to have people connect with our content and the work we're doing with advertisers, on any platform where they want to be," she said.
Ms. Ahlstrand said Flare's editor Cameron Williamson recently met with a group of university students who told him that they read the magazine. "Ten minutes into the conversation, he realized they were following us on Instagram and Twitter, they didn't actually read the magazine. But they called themselves readers," said Ms. Ahlstrand. "We love that, and we want to engage with that demographic on whatever platform they're going to come to us on."
She added: "The ultimate goal is to eventually then look at how things could be monetized, but that's sort of in the bigger scheme of things. We're not quite there yet."