The story of shrinking magazines and dwindling ad pages is anything but new. However, the lack of transparency in reporting data for print magazines leaves many unanswered questions about how thin things really are.
Since we are no longer able to track and generate accurate reports on paper ad purchases, we decided in 2015 to monitor some of the best fashion magazines in the industry by weighing and measuring them to create a new set of data, albeit less scientific, so we might get a better idea of how mainstream fashion magazines are performing year over year. Four years later and the tale is not surprising: things aren’t looking so good.
Since we started this project, we have seen Charm and Popular style watch fold their printed magazines. Carry reduced its frequency to two issues per year, which prompted us to remove it from the dataset. And we have decided to also delete Seduce because it was less than half the size of the second smallest book.
But beyond that, we’ve seen a significant decrease across the board over the past four years, including at Vogue, where its “thump factor” has decreased by more than 30% during this period. But the good news for Vogue He’s still the clear leader of the pack, but no one overall is immune to the challenges of the industry and the trend.
The “best” performers this year are those who have remained relatively stable compared to last year. Yet for In the style and Marie Claire, staying flat shouldn’t justify any pride, given they’re at the bottom of the stack, so to speak.
But rather than delving too deep into those numbers, since we’re bringing you the charts here, let’s take a quick look at the five magazines themselves.
First off, without nuance, four of the five magazines really want you to know this is their fall fashion issue. Cover lines include ‘It’s Fashion, Baby’ by In the style; “The question of fashion” by Harper’s Bazaar; “The power of fashion” by She; and “It’s the September issue!” ” from Vogue.
The cover lines are meant to generate enthusiasm for magazine selling, but such explicit calls to sell fashion in a fashion magazine arguably diminish the trendy and exclusive character on which these books have built their reputation. But this is a minor criticism compared to a more egregious concern on these covers.
Take a look at the five covers and you’ll see that four of them all have something very familiar in common: a complete lack of diversity (unless you count hair color). Last year we saw more diversity in the dataset. However, this year Alicia Keys is the only person of color on the cover of one of those magazines. It is not simply a problem of social conscience. Magazines desperately need to tap into a younger, more diverse audience if they are to develop and maintain brand strength.
This is especially true in the age of social media, where your magazine cover probably means more on Instagram than it does on the newsstand. Julianne Moore or Angelina Jolie may have decent sales rates, but how are they going to contribute to growth In the style and She is brand equity on digital platforms? This is sort of a rhetorical question for now, but one that these magazines need to consider more carefully as the September issues continue to decline and represent less and less annual revenue.
What I’m trying to make the point here is that fashion magazines don’t seem to be trying to do things differently and are always resting on their laurels. The problem is, our data suggests that what worked before is clearly not working anymore. Neither of us should expect a story back here. But what is to be hoped is that these magazines will start to think differently about their publications and their audiences.
We will be doing this same report next year. We expect there to be more drop. So our question now is: How long will this report be relevant again before the once-dominant September looks like every other magazine issue?
Each magazine was weighed on two scales to confirm accuracy. The weights are then rounded to the nearest ounce. In addition, each spine has been measured to the middle of the book and rounded to the nearest millimeter. Since the cup sizes and paper are not uniform, we are measuring both the weight and back thickness to provide a fairer comparison.