On magazine’s circulation figures

Jazz Times was credited with 100,000 circulation in virtually all press accounts of its recent transfer of ownership — which with annual subscription rate of nearly $24 per year suggests annual income from readership alone (there’s income from ads, too) easily be in excess of $2 million dollars.

But as I noted in my last posting, the circulation figure is not verified by the non-profit Audit Bureau of Circulation or anyone else. It comes from Jazz Times advertising department, which of course sells ads on the basis of how many eyeballs can be said to be perusing them. The whole question of jazz mag circulation is murky — surprising, at a time when I can chart by the hour the exact number of hits of readers on this blog, and even figure out where they come from. Here is correspondence on jazz mag circulation claims I received from Frank Alkyer, the publisher of 75-year-old Down Beat magazine, Jazz Times‘ rival (which has a $26.99 annual sub rate for 12 issues; JT puts out 10 and an education supplement). Alkyer says Down Beat’s circulation is currently 70,000.

DownBeat was ABC audited for a while in the ’70s. It has not been audited in the time that I’ve been here. Neither was JazzTimes, neither is Jazziz. It’s an expensive process, so I understand why. But there are some circulation claims out there that have made me scratch my head over the years. Notice that DB is the only one of the three magazine during the course of the last decade that has said its circulation numbers had decreased, and it’s the only one still in business without interruption. 
We lost the circ because we made some missteps and had to correct some serious inefficiencies. In the last five years, we’ve gone to a one-price policy for subscribers (but we do still offer a student and professional rate). That cuts out confusion in the marketplace. We cut out ALL unprofitable circulation (deep-discounted subs from agencies and the like). We vastly improved efficiency on the newsstand, but gave up some sales in the process. We’ve turned our online subscription option into the fastest-growing portion of our business. . . And we launched a digital edition last year that is growing nicely for those readers who want their jazz magazine delivered to their desktop, not their doorstep. In short, we’ve made subscribing to DownBeat easy and give it to our readers through their preferred delivery system.
The result has been growth in subs so far this year during the recession. It’s slow growth, but it’s nice.
Like everyone, we’re affected by the recession, but we are solid. And I see nothing but opportunity for this magazine in the coming years. And when I say magazine, I mean the print version, the digital edition, the web site and our e-newsletter, not to mention our book division and the hundreds of other ideas we’ve got rattling around, but haven’t found time to execute yet.
 . . . We’ve got a nice, loyal readership. We don’t overstate our circulation. We try to deliver a high-quality, creative magazine that is informative and entertaining.  That ends my sales pitch.

Complete disclosure: I’ve written about pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ cd Road Shows, Vol. 1 in Down Beat‘s August 2009 issue; I’ve contributed to DB since 1974 and worked as associate editor from 1978 into 1981. I remain on the masthead as a Senior Contributor. I’ve also written for JazzTimes and Jazziz magazines, Swing Journal and Jazz Life (Japan), The Wire and Jazzwise (UK), Jazzman (France) and Bravo! (Brazil), among others.


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