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2009 State of the Scrapbook Magazine, Part 1: Circulation

The end of the year is a good time to examine the health of the publishing segment of the scrapbook industry for several reasons. First, the end of the year is a natural time to look back on things – especially things that have seen major change in that year. Second, the scrapbook magazines publish their annual ownership & circulation statements that are required by the USPS in their last issue of the year.

2009 saw huge changes in the publishing segment of the scrapbook industry. F+W announced it was shutting down Memory Makers Magazine in May. CK Media shut down Simple Scrapbooks in January (only a short time after shuttering Digital Scrapbooking), ended its major contests, and called in a bankruptcy/turnaround firm to settle its debts for pennies on the dollar before the magazines were sold in July to New Track Media. Over the course of the year, CK lost most of its headline talent as well: Cathy Zielske, Becky Higgins, Ali Edwards, Jessica Sprague, and Lisa Bearnson, to name a few.

Not all the scrapbook publishing changes were that drastic, or even negative, though. In April, Melissa Inman departed Scrapbooks Etc and was not replaced; instead, an organizational shuffle removed her title from the company. That same month, Scrapbook Trends began offering digital subscriptions to its publications. In October, Scrapbooks Etc. unveiled a redesign targeted at attracting news stand customers (among other things).

So, after that year of seismic change, where has that left us? Here’s where the three remaining news stand magazines are positioned in total circulation:

Magazine
October 2008
October 2009
Change
Scrapbooks Etc.266,784212,683-20.3%
Creating Keepsakes203,967177,218-13.1%
Paper Crafts161,000121,220-24.7%
  • The three magazines are ranked in the same order for total circulation numbers as in 2008.
  • Everyone was down significantly in total circulation.
  • In 2008, Creating Keepsakes had managed a 5% increase in circulation while everyone else’s numbers declined. This year, they fell into the trend of declining numbers with the other publications.
  • The gap is closing between Creating Keepsakes and Scrapbooks Etc. In 2008, Creating Keepsakes had 76% of the circulation of Scrapbooks Etc. In 2009, Creating Keepsakes had 83% of the circulation of Scrapbooks Etc.

These circulation numbers seem to reflect pretty much the status quo from the past few years – a segment in decline and dominated by Scrapbooks Etc – until you break them down into subscription and news stand sales.

The largest percentage of the magazines’ circulation comes from subscriptions:

 
Scrapbooks Etc.
Creating Keepsakes
Paper Crafts
October 2009 Subscribers147,344152,79995,550
October 2008 Subscribers201,994171,475120,000
% Change-26.5%-11.1%-20.37%
  • Creating Keepsakes actually has more subscribers than Scrapbooks Etc. The difference in total circulation that gives Scrapbooks Etc. its lead comes from news stand sales.
  • Creating Keepsakes got this lead by being the best at retaining its subscribers. It had by far the lowest decrease in subscription circulation over 2008 of the three magazines.

The news stand sales numbers also have a lot of information to offer about where the magazines stand:

 
Scrapbooks Etc
Creating Keepsakes
Paper Crafts
October 2009 Actual Sales65,33924,41925,270
October 2008 Actual Sales64,79032,49241,000
% Change in News Stand Sales From 2008-2009+1.6%-25%-38.36%
% of sales from News Stand in October 200931%13.5%20.84%
% of sales from News Stands in 200824%15.7%25.46%
  • Scrapbooks Etc maintained its sales news stand sales numbers while the other two publications experienced massive losses in that area. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is quite likely due to a smaller number of outlets carrying Creating Keepsakes & Paper Crafts, while Scrapbooks Etc. has maintained its distribution points due to the clout of its parent company Meredith.
  • A much larger percentage of Scrapbook Etc’s circulation comes from the news stand than is the case with the circulation of the other two publications. This would either explain the new cover design, or was perhaps the result of it.

Overall, these numbers aren’t good for the scrapbook magazine industry. They show a continued decline that so far the various efforts have been unable to arrest. This is in line with the experience of other publishing market segments, where publications are rapidly shuttering. Unfortunately, I highly doubt that we’ve seen the last of the lights going out at publications in the scrapbook market.

For more on why and more talk about the future of scrapbook magazines, watch for the 2009 State of the Scrapbook Magazine, Part 2: Advertising (coming soon)

[Note: All of the above statistics are based on the single issue published closest to Oct. 1st for the magazines. Due to their different business model, publications from Northridge and Stampington were excluded from this analysis - but you will be able to read about them in part three of the series.]

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