Tuesday, August 14, 2007

17 per cent drop in Time magazine readers; Rivals delighted. 300 Jobs to be slashed

There may be dark days ahead for Time magazine (pictured left, with its controversial mid-90s pigment-enhanced cover of OJ Simpson beside Newsweek's untouched version.) Mainstream print media looks like it's in free fall, folks.
Time's domination over Newsweek is on the wane, according to
Louis Hau, a business analyst for Forbes.com.
Time magazine remains America's largest newsweekly, but its lead over archrival Newsweek has narrowed considerably, according to circulation figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Time's total paid and verified weekly circulation during the six months ended June 30 stood at 3.4 million, down 17.1% from 4.1 million during the same period last year following a reduction in January in the magazine's rate base. Newsweek's circulation stood at 3.1 million, virtually unchanged from a year earlier.

Time spokeswoman Betsy Burton said the decline in circulation was in line with the magazine's expectations after it slashed its rate base--the average circulation level it guarantees advertisers--from 4 million to 3.25 million. The move was part of Time's plans to shift its ad sales efforts to audience measurements, as opposed to strict circulation measurements. The magazine has said the former will provide advertisers with more transparency and accuracy.

Also in January, Time began publishing on Fridays, rather than Mondays, and overhauled the magazine's design to place a greater emphasis on news analysis.(It resembles a faux-Economist.) Burton said the redesign has been well received by reader focus groups and said she didn't believe it was a factor in the magazine's circulation decline.

The first half of 2006 has been a challenging period of transition for Time Warner's Time Inc. unit. The subsidiary said in January that it would cut nearly 300 jobs, bringing its total headcount down to about 11,000. In March, it sold 18 smaller magazines, including Popular Science and Field & Stream, to Bonnier Group, a Swedish media conglomerate.

In conjunction with the rate base reduction, Time also pulled back on verified subscriptions--those subscriptions sold to doctor's offices, beauty salons and other public areas. Verified subscriptions at Time plunged 63.5% to 128,032 during the six months ended June 30, from 350,623 a year earlier.

But verified subscriptions were up sharply at other big Time Inc. titles. Sports Illustrated had verified subscriptions totaling 144,624 during the six months ended June 30, up 77% from 81,857 a year earlier, while verified subscriptions at Money skyrocketed more than ninefold to 214,760 from 20,866 a year earlier.

Other top 25 magazines notching circulation gains during the six months ended June 30 included O, The Oprah Magazine, up 4.3% to 2.4 million, and Hearst's Good Housekeeping, up 2.8% to 4.7 million. Losers included TV Guide, down 12.2% to 3.3 million; Playboy, down 5% to 2.9 million; and Ladies Home Journal, down 4.3% to 3.9 million.

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