Magazines: Are There More or Fewer Now?

VOM“Magazine Shutdowns Slow Drastically” go the headlines today-or also “Magazines Are Starting To Come Back To Life.” That’s from a new survey that says only 87 magazines shut down in the first half of 2010, while there were a whopping 279 magazine shutdowns in the first half of 2009. (No reporter revealed this survey’s sample size.) For some more history: 525 magazines closed down in all of 2008; 591 in 2007. Now, the Magazine Publishers of America, in their own just-released comparison of the first half of 2010 to 2009, only tracks 226 magazines-the big ones. And one of them is Cookie and one is Gourmet and one is Blender and one is Bestlife and one is Portfolio and one is Elegant Bride… all closed now, and obviously that list goes on.

So let’s generously round off their active tracking to around 200 magazines. But that’s a very small percentage of the country’s magazines.

There are very roughly something like 10,000 magazines as of 2009 in the United States. 1500 of those are college or alumni magazines; about 1100 each are medical or “regional interest”; 500 are car magazines; 350 are construction-related; 250 are law-related; almost 800 are law magazines.

The vast majority of these are tiny. When you list just the top 100 magazines in America by circulation, you are already dipping into magazines with circulation below a million people. If you look back at 2006, a weirdly boomy time for new magazines (trying to capture “ethnic” markets and brides and the like), there were 15,000 or so magazines in the US and Canada.

So: are there more magazines? Fewer?

The answer is sort of “it doesn’t matter.” It’s negligible. What isn’t negligible is the shrinking of the industry itself, as a place of employment. There are pretty much the same number of magazines as there were in recent years, if you look at “recent years” being the last few decades, or more instead of less, but the industry itself is much smaller.

One datapoint that’s helpful to look at is how nearly all magazines, big and small, made do with less. This look at staffing at Time and Newsweek from ’83 to ’05 says plenty.

EMPLOYMENT OVER TIME