Sunday, April 01, 2007

Internet takes bite out of Canadian magazine readership

Internet takes bite out of Canadian magazine readership
Media landscape increasingly fractured as rivals fight to maintain audiences


Readership of several Canadian magazines is falling amid competition from the Internet, while some titles are cutting back circulation to focus on more lucrative subscribers.

Reader's Digest, the country's largest magazine with a circulation of 986,000 copies an issue, maintained the highest readership in the country with 7.08 million readers over age 12, according to data released yesterday by the PMB Print Measurement Bureau.

However, those numbers were down 1.7 per cent from last year's report. The PMB studies readership of magazines and newspapers over two-year periods. The latest numbers span the period from Oct. 1, 2004, to Sept. 30, 2006, and are compared with the same period spanning 2003-2005.

Canadian Geographic, which moved into the second spot in readership rankings, was a rarity in the industry as it boosted readership by 7.3 per cent, to 4.4 million.

Magazines are battling a migration of their readers to the Internet and are competing in an increasingly fractured media landscape where television, radio and newspapers are each vying to maintain their audiences in the face of competition from the Web.

And like the newspaper industry, which has seen some publications reducing the number of discounted copies they print to focus on paying subscribers who are more valuable to advertisers, some magazines are cutting back circulation.

That has also contributed to a drop in readers at some titles, said Bill Shields, editor of Masthead magazine, which tracks the industry.

Maclean's, which saw its overall readership rise 5.2 per cent in the last PMB numbers, fell 5.4 per cent this time around, to slightly more than 2.75 million readers. However, the magazine has been one of the more aggressive titles in cutting back its circulation since it relaunched.

Some magazines have sought to cull so-called junk subscribers, which generally cost more to pursue, in favour of their core market, Mr. Shields said.

"A junk subscriber is someone who has to be pestered eight or nine times before they renew and the cost of sending eight or nine renewal notices through first-class mail to someone often exceeds the money you get from the subscription."

The PMB tabulates readership by multiplying the number of readers per copy, determined in its surveys, by circulation. However, the magazine industry saw a broader decline in the number of readers per copy.

The industry trend shows readers per copy dropped from 5.5 in last year's report to 5.0 this year, which reflected the drop in readership numbers at dozens of titles.

In the business category, Report on Business Magazine had the highest readership with 1.37 million readers, down 5.3 per cent, while Financial Post Business dropped 6.3 per cent to 1.22 million readers. Canadian Business had 984,000 readers, down 9.2 per cent, according to PMB.

Several newspapers were tracked in the study. The Globe and Mail had more than 1.32 million readers on weekdays, which was up 0.2 per cent, and more than 1.24 million readers on Saturdays, down 1.9 per cent. The National Post had 813,000 readers on weekdays, down 3.2 per cent, and 659,000 readers on Saturdays, down 6.9 per cent.

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