Magazine Readers Are Wealthy and Well Educated, USPS Study Finds
The quintessential subscribers to printed American consumer magazines are wealthy, well-educated empty nesters who live in a single-family house, a recent U.S. Postal Service study suggests.
“Households with incomes above $100,000 receive three times as many periodicals as households earning less than $35,000,” says the USPS’s recently released annual Household Diary Study of mail received by more than 5,000 households during 2015.
“For households whose heads are under 34 years old and with incomes less than $35,000, the average is only 0.2 pieces per week. Households with income above $100,000 and whose heads are over 55 receive the most periodicals, with 1.7 pieces per week.”
Households that receive the most mailed periodicals also tend to have more than one adult, no children (Come on, parents, magazines are a great way to get kids interested in reading.), be headed by someone with a postgraduate degree, and reside in a single-family house.
Three-fourths of the periodicals mailed to U.S. households last year were magazines, the study indicated. And copies mailed to homes dwarf other forms of magazine distribution, such as newsstand and copies mailed to businesses. So, though imperfect, the study provides a pretty good portrait of American magazine readership.
The good news is that affluent young adults, perhaps the audience most coveted by advertisers, have not abandoned printed magazines: Those under 34 with household incomes over $100,000 receive 0.8 periodicals per week, more than the average household and several times more than their less affluent young-adult counterparts.
The bad news is that the typical household received 40% fewer magazines per week than in 1987. The total number of magazine subscriptions may have decreased slowly, but the decline is more dramatic when viewed on a market-share or per-household basis.
Weekly magazines took the biggest proportional hit since 1987, dropping from 0.25 in 1987 (in the heyday of TV Guide) to 0.11 per week. Monthlies declined from 0.61 to 0.39. All other magazines held nearly steady, dropping from 0.10 to 0.09 (which makes the biweekly and quarterly business look inviting).
Nonprofit periodicals per household dropped by two-thirds from 1987 to 2015, with an especially dramatic decrease among “religious/educational” publications.
But at least we’re not publishing newspapers: Those declined from 0.60 deliveries per week in 1987 to 0.11 today, a change the USPS attributes both to declining circulation and to more non-USPS delivery. Newspapers are now only 13% of periodicals received by homes, down from 35% in 1987, resulting in the proportion of magazines rising from 59% to 75%.
A final note: The higher proportion of magazines and lower proportion of newspapers should have made the Periodicals class more efficient for the Postal Service, because magazines tend to be more automation friendly and packaged better. Yet despite this ongoing shift — plus greater postal automation, relaxed delivery standards, and publishers’ investments in co-mail and dropshipping — the Postal Service keeps claiming that its costs per Periodicals copy are outpacing inflation.
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