Magazine Circulation for Late 2008

05 December 2008
Takarajima and the Gyaru magazines weather an otherwise unfriendly storm
The master guide to the Japanese media Media Data Japan publishes twice a year, providing the latest and most accurate circulation figures for Japan's myriad magazines. As previously explained on MEKAS., the strength in sales for Japanese fashion magazines has traditionally correlated with the strength of the apparel market, since consumers generally consult magazines before buying clothing each season. (No coincidence that magazine circulations peaked in 1995 and import apparel peaked in 1996.) We can also measure the relative size of each fashion "taste segment" by comparing the general readerships of magazines representing those segments. For example, the dominance of the magazine CanCam from 2003 to 2007 corresponded with a psychographic boom in "mote-kei" style intentionally aimed to attracting the opposite sex. The recent decline in CanCam circulation suggests less desire for clothing in that particular style.

We have used the Media Data Japan numbers to update the circulation figures in our three core magazine tutorials (Under-30 Women, Over-30 Women, Men), but we also wanted to take a broader look at the trends in the data. Circulations are down across the board, but a few companies and genres are weathering the decline.

A Note: For the list of magazines above, we removed all magazines that refuse to provide third-party certified circulation numbers. We only included magazines that use either Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) certification or Japan Magazine Publisher Association (JMPA) certification. In the picture above, the blue numbers show uptick while the orange numbers show Takarajima-published magazines that saw an increase in circulation.

(1) Magazine Circulations Continue to Plummet

Circulation continues to decrease for almost all fashion magazines. Top sellers CanCam (457,404 --> 400,118), More (393,648 --> 378,321), and with (357,092 --> 336,271) all took significant hits in just six months. This readership decline held steady for almost all magazine categories, but was especially apparent in upscale titles such as high-fashion Spur, luxurious 25 ans, and cultured Brutus.

Most critics and analysts are quick to blame the internet, but consider that not a single Japanese fashion site has perfectly replicated the kind of information available in magazines. Perhaps fashionwalker.com covers similar territory to CanCam, but the contents are not identical. If you are a fan of specific model, for example, the magazines still provide the most shots of those models and the most "access" to their private lives. When it comes to high fashion, no Japanese website has yet given readers the level of artistic photo shoots seen in titles like Spur. But even without direct competition to the internet, high fashion titles lost readers. The internet may not be helping the problem by questioning the idea of "paying for information," but the web cannot be the sole cause of a near decade of decline.

The fundamental issue may be that Japanese fashion magazines are little more than catalog-like "shopping guides" in an era where consumption is depressed. The current magazine medium offers little value to consumers if they cannot act on the information inside. Young consumers have seen decreased incomes in recent years and therefore have less need for a guide to teach them how to spend. Those aiming to save away money will shun magazines in order to not be seduced, or even, settle on browsing in stores to save a few thousand yen each month. So the dominant fashion magazines may not bounce back until consumers start earning robust incomes and have an intention to spend on clothing; or the format changes to offer more non-consumer content.
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