The Awl Fabricated 15: Our Annual Ranking of the Most-Read Fictional Publications

by Abe Sauer

new fronteir

Global markets are rapidly recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and so are the circulations of the fictitious. There are 15 new publications on the 2010 edition of Fabricated 15, our (could be!) annual ranking of fictional print publications with circulations greater than their real-world counterparts.

Topping the list this year is newcomer The New Frontiersman, news staple of the Watchmen Cold War world. The right-wing Frontiersman has accumulated a tremendous following in the last year on the strength of its endless braying about the nation’s turn toward socialism. The addition of guest columnist Erick Erickson drove the publication’s fourth quarter to record subscription numbers. Additionally, because its wing-nut readership cannot use the Internet with confidence, The Frontiersman’s print numbers remain above 2 million. (They have only 1530 Twitter followers.)

runway mag

After a disastrous 2008, girlie mags surged back last year. Miranda Priestly’s Runway remained at top (1.2 million including newsstand) despite increased competition from Mode (900K), which, after Fey Sommers’ death, is exceeding expectations even while averting near-disaster high-jink after near-disaster high-jink under the helm of Daniel Bradford. Meanwhile, ageless Erica Kane’s Tempo Magazine (355K) continues its endless, nothing-new battle with Nicole “Nikki” Newman’s Restless Style (330K) with no end in sight. Making the list, but just barely, is Composure (400K), which saw a recent large surge despite negative publicity from Andie Anderson’s hit tell-all memoir, How to Lose a New York Magazine Job in Ten Days, exposing editor Lana Jong’s complete lack of journalistic ethics.

Other publications making the list include American Sports Magazine, which, thanks to the experience of Dan Foreman and the pluck of newcomer Carter Duryea, also saw a spike in its ad revenue. In sadder news, both Hush-Hush and the New York Inquirer saw their numbers drop following the deaths of their founders. (“Death” being assumed in the former’s case, as Sid Hudgens’ body has yet to be found.)

taint mag

New to this year’s list: Rhode Island Slut (210K), the small smut-mag-that-could from the smallest state in the union. Despite wide availability of free porn, Rhode Island Slut has shown that a print publication that remains hyper-focused can achieve relative success. The success of two other highly targeted blue titles, Taint Magazine (182K) and Juggs and Ammo (275K), further evidences the importance of a tight focus. Also, Juggs and Ammo has seen especially strong gains thanks to an atmosphere or right-wing paranoia (see New Frontiersman above).

Comeback title of the year is Particle Magazine (400K). After a disastrous experience with Editor Stathis Borans that almost brought the magazine to bankruptcy, Particle surged back after receiving loads of positive publicity from one-time writer Veronica Quaife’s gripping, Oprah-selected memoir of her fantastic dealings with both Borans and Seth Brundle.


The Daily Prophet is the highest profile drop-off this year. The wizarding publication saw the largest readership swing in Fabricated 15 history, from an estimate circ. of “a muggle-ton” last year to less than 50,000 today. Yes, it has the ability to replicate itself without the need for a press — but how much exactly is that worth if everyone reads the Wizzeb on their iWand?

Surprisingly not making the list this year? Former newspaper heavyweights The Daily Planet and The Daily Bugle. Even in the fictional world, apparently, classic daily newspaper publishing is in the sewer. Also, may we suggest Lou Grant focus on growing the quality of his Los Angeles Tribune editorial content instead of leaving filthy messages on our voicemail. Also, Spy dropped off after star writer C.K. Dexter Haven put his column on hiatus to enter sex rehab.

Finally, Fabricated 15 perennial contender The Washington Post (673K) failed to make any gains in the last year despite only-in-fiction stunts like hiring porn-named writers like Woodward and funny characters like “Carl,” offering to sell access to corporate interests willing to pay thousands for private dinners with publishers and stocking its online site with plagiarized material. Only in the movies, people!

To qualify for the Fabricated 15, we require that candidates be a fictional print publication, a rule which excludes mythological and folkloric works. Titles must appear in a specific narrative work or series of works. And they must be known, both within their fictional universe and by their audience, for having better long-term prospects than their real-life counterparts.

Circulation estimates are based on an analysis of the fictional publication’s source material, though mostly they’re made up. In the case of privately held fictional concerns, we sought to totally make shit up. All numbers would be endorsed by the National Association of Magazine Editors were they relevant… the numbers of course.

We reserve the right to bend or break any of our own rules — because we’re online, baby. (With (a very few) Apologies to Forbes.)

Abe Sauer has his very own fictional magazine.