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Thursday, September 05, 2013

The gob-smacking "sales" figures of Rolling Stone

Nobody else has remarked on this so I've got to. Rolling Stone's decision to put the Boston bombing suspect on their cover was judged a success because they sold twice as many copies on the news stand as they usually do.

Twice as many. That's quite something. Magazines *never* double their sale issue-on-issue. How many copies was that?


That's the number of copies they sold in the whole of the United States on the back of immense publicity. 13,232. I've worked on magazines in the UK that have lost that many copies down the back of the sofa.

The really interesting thing was this was twice as many as usual, which means that the average issue of Rolling Stone, no matter what superstar, nymphet or American icon is on its cover, no matter how fabulous the cover concept, no matter how expensive the photographer, actually manages to motivate just six and a half thousand Americans to go to the news stand. That is considerably less than the average home gate of Yeovil Town.

Presumably Rolling Stone sold more than that ten years ago but it still can't have been all that many. It must mean that UK magazines, which traditionally have a terrible chip on their shoulders when it comes to their American cousins, regularly outsell them, even in a market that's only a fraction the size.

All circulation figures involve a certain amount of smoke and mirrors but American figures are more opaque than ours. The overwhelming majority of copies are on subscription and most of those are sold at a risibly low price in order to secure the number of readers the publishers need to deliver to the advertisers. There's an interesting piece here on an American site that explains why they've recently stopped bothering.

Rolling Stone's current rate base is 1,450,000.