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Shrinking subscriptions

Online alternatives continue to erode magazine volumes

Magazine subscriptions continue to decline, new research shows.

Customers continue to pare back on magazine and newspaper subscriptions in favor of online alternatives, new research shows.

Periodicals accounted for just 4.1 percent of household mail in 2014, while volume fell 10 percent between 2012 and 2014, the Postal Service’s latest household diary study found.

The data confirms a long-term shift in reading habits and related advertising spending.

Magazine advertising spending began dropping in 2001, before plummeting even further during the 2007 recession. Ad spending has fallen another 31 percent since 2009 — drastically reducing magazine industry revenues and profits.

Normally, an improving economy would spur advertising spending, boosting magazine ad revenues and circulation and in turn, postal volume.

This time, however, USPS Financial Economist John Mazzone anticipates a long-term spending decline, regardless of economic conditions.

“The Internet’s become a strong competitor of hard-copy publications, providing free or inexpensive alternative channels for news, information and entertainment,” he said.

Today, magazines account for 83 percent of mailed periodicals, compared to 59 percent in 1987. The numbers reflect a sharp decline in mailed newspapers, to 12 percent of periodicals volume, from 35 percent in 1987.

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