Good Question: Do People Read Magazines Anymore?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Monday, the New York Times reported Playboy will no longer have pictures of nude women in the magazine. The magazine’s chief says there’s so much pornography on the Internet these days, naked photographs are passe. It’s a bold strategy for a magazine that’s seen its circulation drop from 5.6 million in 1975 to 800,000 in 2015, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

Those huge drops in circulation have been common for many of the large magazines in the U.S. over the past 30 years. So, do people read magazines anymore? Good Question.

“Yes, no form of media really goes away,” said Rebecca Sterner, a magazine consultant, who advises magazines on managing their subscriptions. “Are people still listening to the radio, are they still watching television? People are still reading magazines.”

According to the Association of Magazine Media, 91% of people read magazines, an all-time high.

“Newsstand numbers have gone down and some of the really large magazines have lowered subscription levels, circulation levels, because they couldn’t sustain the expenses as ad budgets got smaller,” said Sterner. For example, the circulation for National Geographic was close to 8 million in 2000. By 2009, it has fallen to 4.5 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Reader’s Digest has dropped from 12.5 million in 2000 to 7.5 million in 2009.

But, there are more magazine readers because there are more magazines.

“There are more magazines than we’ve ever had in our entire history,” said Samir Husni, Director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi.

In 1980, there were 2,000 magazines. Now, there are 12,000.

“You think of an interest and there’s a magazine for it,” said Sterner, pointing out there are magazines dedicated to dog agility and outdoor activities in Idaho and Wyoming. Generally, those magazines can survive because people are willing to pay more.

The Alliance for Audited Media finds the Top 10 magazines by circulation in the U.S are:

  1. AARP the Magazine
  2. AARP Bulletin
  3. Better Homes and Garden
  4. Game Informer Magazine
  5. Good Housekeeping
  6. Family Circle
  7. National Geographic
  8. People
  9. Reader’s Digest Magazine
  10. Woman’s Day

Digital makes up about 5 to 8 percent of the magazine market.

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