NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. magazine sales fell nearly 10 percent in the first half of 2012, a troubling sign for publishers that suggests Americans are still being careful about discretionary spending.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations said Tuesday that overall circulation, including subscriptions, was just about flat from a year earlier. But single-copy sales, which are more closely watched — because publishers make more money from them— continued to fall. Subscriptions are typically sold at a discount so publishers can increase their circulation and attract advertisers.
The industry group said that single-copy sales at newsstands and other retailers totaled 26.4 million in the first six months of 2012. That's down from 29.1 million in the same period last year.
Cosmopolitan was still the top-selling magazine at newsstands, even though its sales fell nearly 16 percent to 1.4 million. Most of the top 25 best-selling magazines saw their sales decline. Family Circle and Woman's Day were among the exceptions. Weight Watchers magazine saw the biggest sales decline — nearly 28 percent, to 325,950 copies in the first six months of the year.
Total circulation, which includes digital sales such as issues sold on the iPad, was just about flat at 297.1 million. Paid subscriptions grew 1 percent to 260 million from 257.2 million.
Magazine sales have been declining because people are more careful about spending money in the uncertain economy and because of the proliferation of free content on the Web, sometimes from the magazines themselves.
The Audit Bureau also released, for the first time, the top 25 best-selling digital replica magazines. These are digital versions of print magazines that contain the same content and advertising as their paper counterparts. Game Informer Magazine was by far the No. 1 highest-circulation digital replica magazine, with 1.2 million copies. Maxim was No. 2 with 284,824.
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