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Reader’s Digest, Playboy, Others Miss Rate Base


While many of the consumer magazines included in the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ FAS-FAX report for the second half of 2009 made their rate base requirements for the period, many others, including some heavyweights, did not.

Of the 30 or so large circulation magazines with rate bases of 2 million or higher—including AARP, Time and Better Home & Gardens—Reader’s Digest and Playboy were the only titles to fall short of their circ. guarantee. Playboy reported an overall circ. of 2,021,751, more than 570,000 off its 2.6 million rate base. The magazine also fell short during the first half of 2009, delivering a total paid and verified circ. of 2,453,266.

With an 8 million rate base, Reader’s Digest delivered an overall paid and verified circulation of 7,099,558 during the second half. Last summer, the magazine said it was cutting frequency and reducing its rate base to 5.5 million—an 18-month process that would start with the February 2010 issue. A Reader's Digest spokesperson said that missing its rate base during the second half last year was part of that strategy.

Generally, when a magazine doesn’t make its rate base, its publisher is required to issue refunds to its advertisers or make other concessions.

A number of celebrity titles also had trouble reaching their minimum circ. numbers during the second half of 2009. Among them were American Media’s Star (1.1 million rate base compared to 1,035,713 overall circ.), OK! (800,000 rate base vs. 753,886 overall circ.) and Bauer’s In Touch (800,000 rate base vs. 790,395 overall circ.).

Chicago-based Johnson Publishing also failed to reach its circ. promises. Ebony reported an overall circ of 1,169,870 compared to a rate base of 1,250,000. Jet, meanwhile, missed its 900,000 rate base, reporting an overall circ of only 795,055.

Other notable titles that missed rate bases were Harper’s (200,000 rate base vs. 195,114 overall circ.), Soap Opera Digest (500,000 rate base vs. 487,629 overall circ.) and Emmis Publishing’s Los Angeles (150,000 rate base vs. 140,022 overall circ.).

Biggest Overall Gainers

Although the vast majority of magazines claiming rate bases saw overall total paid and verified circulation declines during the last six months last year, some in fact reported significant gains. The biggest growth came from Rodale’s Women’s Health, which saw overall circ grow 21.5 percent to 1,454,545.

That was followed by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s Body + Soul (+19.7 percent to 678,136), Birds & Blooms (+14.7 percent to 1,737,397), Meredith’s Siempre Mujer (+11.8 percent to 458,000) and All You (+10.6 percent to 1,023,242).


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