Best/Worst Circ Performers of the Decade

By Steve Cohn

Dan Capell, the former Newsweek circ director who began his consultancy and Capell’s Circulation Reports nearly 30 years ago, uses Audit Bureau of Circulations data each January to determine the year’s top circulation performers. In the just-released December 2009 CCR, Dan and son Matt Capell compiled 10 years of ABC data to determine which magazines had the decade’s best and worst circulation strategies. Here are highlights, listed alphabetically:

Best ABC Audited Magazines:
♦  Allure. Rate base increased 31% during the decade to a current 1.05 million. Missed rate base with just two issues.
 Architectural Digest: Delivered 4% bonus circ during the decade.
♦  Bon Appétit: Delivered 6% bonus circ during the decade.
♦  The Economist: Weekly never missed rate base (510 issues) and delivered 14% bonus circ during the decade.
 ESPN: Rate base quadrupled over the decade to a present 2 million.
 GQ: Grew rate base 35% over the decade and delivered 9% bonus circ.
♦  InStyle: Delivered 89% rate-base growth over the decade.
♦  Men’s Health: CCR‘s 2008 "top performer" grew its rate base by 475,000 to 1.8 million during the decade.
♦  The New Yorker: Weekly never missed rate base (about 480 issues), and increased its guarantee by 38% and delivered a 10% bonus during the decade.
♦  People: Averaged 346,000 in bonus circ above a rate base that increased 6% over the decade.
♦  Sports Illustrated: Weekly delivered 100,000 bonus circulation over the decade
♦  Vanity Fair: Rate base increased 10% and VF delivered 9% bonus circ over the decade.
♦  Weight Watchers: Delivered 123,000 (17%) in bonus circ over a 1.25 million rate base over the decade.

Worst ABC Audited Magazines:
♦  AutoWeek: Weekly-turned-biweekly decreased rate base by 8% over the decade yet missed the guarantee 185 times.
♦  Ladies’ Home Journal: Rate base decreased 8%, yet there were 54 misses out of 120 releases over the decade.
 Redbook: Rate base decreased 21%, yet nearly 46% out of the 120 releases missed the guarantee over the decade.
♦  Soap Opera Digest: Rate base decreased 55%, yet nearly half the 520 releases missed the guarantee over the decade.
♦  TV Guide: Rate base decreased by nearly 10 million, yet over 37% of the circa 510 releases missed the guarantee over the decade.

Some biggies—including Better Homes and Gardens/Cosmopolitan/Family Circle/Seventeen—are deemed by Capell "On the Fence" titles that are improving from previous "worst auditeds." Such successful launches during the decade as Cooking with Paula Deen/Every Day with Rachael Ray/O (Oprah)/People StyleWatch/Real Simple/The Week are "up and comers" that are "showing great results so far."