U.S. supermarket, newsstand magazine sales tumble

NEW YORK, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Newsstand and retail sales of U.S. magazines fell 11 percent in the second half of 2008, with celebrity and women’s titles taking a hit as supermarket and drugstore shoppers cut back on their spending.

“Single-copy” sales of magazines in figures released by the U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulations on Monday performed worse than paid subscriptions, which were up less than 1 percent.

Total paid and verified U.S. magazine circulation fell a bit less than 1 percent, the Audit Bureau said.

Among traditionally popular titles at the grocery store checkout line, sales of US Weekly fell almost 21 percent to about 1 million copies. In Touch Weekly dropped 32 percent to about 1.2 million copies.

Hearst Corp’s “O, The Oprah Magazine” fell 25 percent to 836,770 copies, and Star Magazine fell 13.45 percent to 712,980 copies.

One exception was People, published by Time Warner Inc's TWX.N Time Inc. Single-copy circulation rose 3.4 percent.

Many U.S. magazines depend on subscriptions for much more of their circulation revenue than newsstand or retail sales, but single-copy sales point to wider problems in the magazine world as readers pick up fewer copies and advertisers shift their dollars elsewhere.

Sales are declining because people are tightening their grip on their wallets and purses as they explore new ways to be frugal during a prolonged financial crisis, said John Harrington, publisher of New Single Copy, a newsletter that covers the magazine business.

“Fifty percent of all magazines are sold in supermarkets, and obviously those types of places took a major hit,” Harrington said. “The whole thing at this point is related to the economy.”

Overall, single-copy sales were 43,367,098, an 11 percent decline from the second half of 2007. The Audit Bureau numbers are based on 535 magazines that supplied their circulation figures for both years. (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; editing by Richard Chang)