Hey, Grandma, pass the magazine

Magazines are for old people. At least, that’s what appears to be going on, according to a recent report from Burrelles-Luce that ranked magazines in the U.S. based on total paid and verified circulation.

The latest report indicates the top five magazines as:

  1. AARP The Magazine (24.55 million)
  2. AARP Bulletin (24.3 million)
  3. Reader’s Digest (8.1 million)
  4. Better Homes and Gardens (7.6 million)
  5. National Geographic (4.63 million)

Let’s face it, that’s a pretty big must-read list for the more mature members of our population. That includes people old enough to admit they are old and enjoy life while it’s still coming at them and those old enough to join them but who are still stuck in denial.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

In this century, the rate of growth of the elderly population (persons 65 years old and over) has greatly exceeded the growth rate of the population of the country as a whole. The elderly increased by a factor of 11, from 3 million in 1900 to 33 million in 1994. In comparison, the total population, as well as the population under 65 years old, tripled. Under the Census Bureau’s middle series projections, the number of persons 65 years old and over would more than double by the middle of the next century to 80 million. About 1 in 8 Americans were elderly in 1994, but about 1 in 5 would be elderly by the year 2030.

What that boils down is that both demographics — the old and the soon-to-be-old-but-too-freaked-out-to-admit-it — are growing in numbers in this country. You would think then, that the magazines who cater to them are going to see circulation numbers increasing by leaps and bounds with their target audiences, right?

Wrong. It’s not going to happen — at least not in their present form. Four out of the five magazines listed above recently saw a decrease in circulation. And that’s only going to get worse as the percentage of the population, regardless of age, transitions to the Internet and mobile phones as their primary source of news and information.

It seems to me they have a pretty good shot at adapting to the Web-based, mobile download demographic that we’re all becoming a part of. So, maybe magazines can survive online. Or, perhaps, they can survive as a hybrid print/online production.

Do you subscribe to a printed magazine? Would you continue subscribing if it moved online? Would you consider subscribing to an online-only publication? And by “subscribing,” I mean actually paying for content. In order for this media genre to survive, someone is going to have to be willing to pay for it. Are you?

Image courtesy of cathyse97 via Flickr.

6 comments on “Hey, Grandma, pass the magazine

    • Ellen and Jessica, I never meant to suggest any magazine wasn’t “awesome,” especially National Geographic. My point was about whether or not printed magazines will survive, which I don’t see happening unless people are willing to support them with paid subscriptions. As we all know, paid subscriptions for online content do not go over well. Something is going to have to change.


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  2. Ok, I guess I qualify as soon-to-be-old-but-too-freaked-out-to-admit-it. I can see why AARP Bulletin and Mag come free with AARP membership so it’s obvious, then, why they have such high circ. On the flipside, I subscribe to Reader’s Digest and a couple other magazines that I enjoy reading when I want away from my computer. I can see getting news via mobile device to keep up while on the go, but I still like my printed publications for my downtime! 🙂


    • I agree Tressa — I’ve been able to give up flipping through a printed newspaper much easier than flipping through a printed magazine. I still see the downside to not having a newspaper in my hands, such as not stumbling onto stories I otherwise never would have known about. But magazines definitely have a more positive flip factor that I think I would miss more.


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