The recent tectonic shifts of the U.S. consumer magazine business is probably no better illustrated than by the report of alterations in circulation business practices over the past four years (2007 - 2011).
Publishers are apparently discovering the favourable economics of replacing the newsstand circulation they have lost to recession and changing technology with so-called "Paragraph 6" circulation and "replica editions".
Paragraph 6 refers to the segment of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) form where publishers report alternative methods of circulation (verified, sponsored, partnership, paid sponsored, award (mostly airline miles redemptions), combination (selling two or more publications at reduced prices, usually below half the basic price.)
According to an extensive roundup story in Audience Development, Paragraph 6 circulation (37 million) in 2011 exceeded the amount of newsstand circulation (31 million) for the first time.
"These sources are generally considered of “lesser quality” than individually sold circulation sources. That’s why they are categorized separately on ABC statements. Paragraph 6 sources have become a powerful and steady influence in economically sustaining circulation levels."
Publishers are also selling more "replica" circulation, or digital editions. Currently, it is largely confined to some major publishers (only 9 of the top 25 reported replica circulation that exceeded 1.5% of their paid/verified circulation) but some of those major companies say they expect that within a few years, such circulation may represent 15% of total circulation.
Of particular interest is how the changes in the ways and means of circulation is also resulting in changes in editorial responsibilities, says the story.
An editor’s job has dramatically changed. In the new media age they’re now responsible for not only magazine content and design, but also for full-fledged websites, creating books, selling related products and, for some, making TV appearances and even developing TV shows. Editors are now expected to be constantly searching for new platforms to deliver magazine content. At some publishing companies they are now called “brand officers.” These additional duties have resulted in time management tradeoffs—less time devoted to agonizing over cover development and a greater temptation to compromise the magazine editorial space with pictures, rather than words.