Canadians buying fewer magazines [gasp -ed.]By the Branta Webcrawler • Mar 16th, 2011 • Category: Brave New World, Editor's Picks, In Brief, Lists, Publishing
by Jane Adams / The Globe and Mail
A new study, released Wednesday, indicates recession-wary Canadians drastically reduced their spending on magazines from earlier in the decade.
Adjusting for inflation, consumer purchases of magazines decreased by 22 per cent between 2001 and 2008, according to the study, dropping from $801-million to $623-million. The report, prepared by Hill Strategies Research of Hamilton for the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and Canadian Heritage, is based on a survey conducted by Statistics Canada of the expenditures of almost 10,000 households.
In 2008, the study states 46 per cent of Canadian households reported spending any money on magazines whereas in 2001 that figure was 54 per cent. In those households with magazine purchases, the average expenditure was $104, or 11 cents out of every $100 in household income. (The province with the lowest average spending on magazines per household was Newfoundland and Labrador, with $86, while Saskatchewan, at $112, was the highest.)
Magazines Canada, however, criticized the study for being too subjective and contrary to “real data.” The problem with household surveys, says Mark Jamison, CEO of Magazines Canada ( a Toronto-based national association representing most Canadian periodicals), is this: “You can ask the questions ‘How old are you’ and ‘Where do you live,’ and people can respond fairly readily. But you ask, ‘What did you spend on books or magazines last year?’ and unless they actually go through their file folders, it’s unlikely you’re going to get anything close to a reasonably accurate response.”
According to Jamison, the average circulation per issue of Canadian consumer magazines actually increased between 2002 and 2008, by 21 per cent (to 74-million from 61-million). Moreover, the average issue circulation of U.S. magazines in Canada declined to 7.3-million in 2008 from 8.7-million seven years earlier. Meanwhile, in those same seven years, the number of Canadian consumer magazine titles increased by 33.4 per cent, to 1,282 from 961.
Hill Strategies president Kelly Hill acknowledged the Statistics Canada data “is not perfect.” Nevertheless, “there was a very detailed process involved.” In some instances, respondents were given “three months’ notice to collect information about their expenditures, then extrapolate that over… a year.” Also, “there were checks in place to ensure the households’ revenues matched expenditures,” he said.
A recently published survey by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, in the meantime, shows that total circulation for major Canadian magazines was down by just over four per cent for the last six months of 2010 relative to the same time period in 2009 (an average of 6.6-million vs. 6.9-million). The biggest source of the drop came from reduced magazine subscriptions – down almost six per cent, to about 5 million from roughly 5.4 million in 2009. By contrast, single-copy sales – usually regarded as a strong indicator of magazine’s timeliness and “hotness” – grew by almost 6.1 per cent, to 1.3 million copies from 1.2 million.
As ever, Reader’s Digest English-language edition remains the Canadian for-pay magazine with the biggest circulation in the country. Even though it saw an 18.9 per cent decline in subscription sales in fall 2010, the monthly reported a total paid and verified circulation of almost 630,000. Canadian Living placed second (about 517,400, a 0.4 per cent increase), Chatelaine third (about 505,000, up 2.5 per cent) and Maclean’s fourth (336,000 – a 7.4 per cent decline overall, although the magazine experienced a 77 per cent jump in single-copy sales, to an average of almost 20,500 per week from 11,553). Canadian House and Home finished fifth, with a total circulation of just over 244,000, an 8.3 per cent hike overall from fall 2009, paced by a 26.3 per cent increase in single-copy sales.
The biggest gainer in single-copy sales for the period – 155.5 per cent – was Canadian Business, with the bi-weekly going to an average of 21,765 copies per issue from 8,519. (It underwent a significant design and content overhaul in fall 2009.) Canada’s History, formerly The Beaver, experienced the biggest drop in single-copy sales – a 38 per cent plummet to 2,278 from almost 3,700.