I really don't know if my area is representative or not, but I've been noticing that several stores that have traditionally included newsstands have recently reduced their sales areas devoted to magazines. My nearby drugstores have cut the overall size of the magazine sales racks in half, more or less.
Tonight I was in a local grocery store that still had a full-sized newsstand, and I noticed something else. I found a wide variety of titles: there was Acoustic Guitar; Mad magazine (I didn't know that one was still around); the ever-popular Canning and Preserving, and two bow-hunting titles (it's Wisconsin, after all, although we're not going to have a lot of crop to can and preserve this year, what with the drought); I think five magazines about something called "Fantasy Football" (I've heard of that, but I don't know what that is), and five more about motorcycles; SewNews; Scrap & Stamp (the initial "S" was covered up by another magazine, so I thought at first glance it was called "Crap & Stamp"); Yoga for Weight Loss; Combat Aircraft magazine; something called Geek (I didn't look to see what that one's about); a magazine called Rat Rod which of course no self-respecting newsstand should lack; and, for inquiring minds, Reality Stars / Where Are They Now? (I wasn't sure if the second line was part of the book's title or if it was the lead blurb. It took me a while to search my brain to see if I knew the name of one reality star—I came up with "Snooky" and "The Situation," although I don't know if I'm right about that or not. Are those reality stars? In any event, I don't care where they are, although I bear them no ill will.)
But not one photography magazine. Not a single one.
I seem to remember when this happened with stereo magazines, which were easy to find on most general newsstands twenty years ago. In that case I think it signalled a pretty distinct decline in the hobby and in the status of those types of products; in this case it might have to do less with the decline of the hobby and more with the rise of the Web.
Of course at full service bookstores (Barnes & Noble seems to be the only one of those left around here) we have a generous range of photo titles.
I've been away from the publishing business for several years now (I think I wrote my last magazine column in 2009—maybe 2008—and it's been since 2001 that I was an editor). It would be interesting to know the circulation figures in the photography category now.
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Featured Comment by Tony Collins: My favourite (UK) magazine title is Total Carp."
Featured Comment by Michael T.: "LensWork still exists in print, still true to its beginnings (no adverts). It has also an indepth and greatly expanded (over print) web presence. I tip my hat to Brooks Jensen and the rest of LensWork publishing team! They have adapted (and adopted) to the web and technology well!"
Featured Comment by Tom Swoboda: "Between 1971 and 2010 I lived in a small town that had a storefront newsstand down on main street. Every week on my day off I would spend at least an hour there paging through magazines and leaving with two to four of various types. I now live in an even more rural area and don't have a full service newsstand to visit anymore and I have found, like you, the supermarket and drugstore magazines have shrunk in size but I don't browse them. The WWW has pretty much eliminated my reading of newspapers and magazines."
Featured Comment by Mark Lacey: "We still have heaps in Australia, get most of the English and American rags too. In the long run they will be doomed by the net, like most things I'm interested in. Must say I miss your writing in the U.K. Black & White Photography magazine."
Featured Comment by Macrothemovie: "First: at first glance, it looks like a newsstand in Great Britain. Second: photography magazines are very rare, everywhere. You only find them in art galleries and little else. Perhaps you mean what I call 'camera magazines' which, indeed, are usually very popular."
Featured Comment by Geoff Wittig: "Yes indeed, the photography magazine market is cratering. Their advertising base is either disappearing or moving to the web. Cell phone cameras are wiping out the digicam market that dominated the field in recent years. Just look at Popular Photography circa 1990, and today. It had three times as many pages, with far more editorial content as well as ads. It's gradually wasting away. There are a goodly number of gear-head magazines, but they seem to arise and fold almost overnight. American Photo has turned itself into People magazine, photo edition, with a repellent (well, to me at least) emphasis on celebrity/sports/fashion photography. It's twilight for photo magazines."
Featured Comment by Kirk Tuck: "I'm surprised that no one has mentioned PDN (Photo District News). Of all the print stuff out there it's still the one I get every month in paper and my local Barnes & Noble always carries copies as well. It's aimed much more at the industry and to more advanced users. After hearing about the demise of print for the better part of the decade it warms my heart to go into a big bricks and mortar bookstore and still see an enormous wall of magazines. Even happier when the magazines feel thicker than they did a year or two ago...."
Featured Comment by Jan: "Not a comprehensive datapoint, but just came across this post called 'Magazines Suffer a Brutal First Half' after reading yours. Might create a chicken/egg situation. If the newsstand shrinks, so do sales and vice versa."