Robot 6

“Geek culture” magazine sales dwindle to almost nothing

The folks at ICv2 pulled out their calculators this week and took a hard look at the “geek culture” (their term) segment of the magazine business. What they saw wasn’t pretty. In April 2000, the top selling magazine was Wizard, with a total of 71,310 copies sold in comics shops (all the numbers are from Diamond). In April 2010, they sold 9,316 copies; now they sell none, because the magazine has shifted online (where, Sean T. Collins observed, it’s not exactly tearing up the internet). The top-selling magazine in April 2011 was Doctor Who Insider #1, which moved a grand total of 3,537 copies—a drop of 95% from Wizard’s April 2000 number.

Of course, this isn’t surprising. Geek culture and a love of gadgets go hand in hand, and it’s natural that these magazines would lose readership to the internet. Print magazines have a significant turnaround time that keeps them from breaking news, but beyond that, the web has become the gathering spot for fans of individual properties. When you can connect with other fans of Torchwood, Sailor Moon, or RPGs via the internet, paper becomes superfluous. The irony is that the “geek” fan community is probably larger than ever; it’s magazines that have dwindled away to almost nothing.



Lead, follow, or get left behind. Simple formula. If you wait until your audience has moved to the Next Thing, you’re NOT the Next Thing. You’re the Old Thing.

Sites like CBR and Bleeding Cool provide nearly-instant news and updates, and if there’s one thing we geeks and nerds crave it’s being on the cutting edge. Print magazines were fine… for a while. But by the time the magazine is published, any news it contains is at least a full month old. Columns and Reviews are just as easy to find online. As are factual articles, spoilers, or cheat codes, or vigorous speculation about Rumor ______.

The more iPhones, iPads, laptops, Androids, Blackberries, and other mobile devices there are, the easier it is to be online 24/7. So, the obvious question to, really, *most* magazines today…. What in the world do you offer that I can’t get online faster, cheaper (if not free), and easier?

don’t most companies source magazines at places other than Diamond. I hardly see these numbers as indicative.

Brigid Alverson

June 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Good point, Paul. It would be interesting to get hold of some general circulation numbers, because I know comics shops are a limited market. While the numbers would certainly be larger if all channels were covered, my hunch is that the trend would be the same, because that’s what is happening with the entire magazine market.

I personally think Paul is on to something with his comment. When I worked at Wizard (2005 to 2008), we were told constantly by the business people that our losses in the DM were made up for in places like Borders and B&N. Hell, at one point there were four places within walking distance of my apartment where I could buy Wizard, and none of them were comic shops (this was NYC, so the sample is skewed, but still).

Obviously, they weren’t able to maintain those numbers for a ton of reasons, but I think if you had a wider sample of sales data, it would prove true that while the hardcore fans in comic and hobby shops may get far more of their news online now, there’s also a competing sample out there of general pop culture geeks who may be more likely to pay for this content from other venues. I doubt it’s enough to stem the tide of failing magazine sales in general, but I doubt the specific numbers would look quite as drastic as they do on ICv2.

And hey, this stuff must be working for someone on some level because I keep seeing new geek-focused magazines pop up. I bought one yesterday on the big superhero movies of the summer that was published by people who do “Life Story” teenie bopper magazines.

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