Growing Interest in World Events Lifts Readership of Foreign Affairs ; Magazine’s Newsstand Sales Defy Industry Trends

November 12, 2003

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November 12, 2003 - Americans’ interest in world events, which intensified after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, has continued unabated, according to sales statistics from Foreign Affairs. In the past two years the bimonthly magazine - considered to be the leading publication on international affairs and foreign policy - has seen its total paid circulation climb 18 percent to 130,000.

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Newsstand sales, the most immediate measure of consumer demand for a magazine, surged right after 9/11, with that year’s September/October issue selling a record 19,000 copies at U.S and Canadian bookstores and newsstands, 61 percent more than the previous issue. Demand has continued climbing, with each issue now selling almost 25,000 copies, more than double the pre-9/11 level.

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According to the rankings by revenue of all magazines sold by Barnes & Noble - the nation’s largest bookstore chain - Foreign Affairs jumped to no. 26 in 2003, up from no. 228 last year. In the news/current events category, Foreign Affairs ranked no. 7, after People, Time, The Economist, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and the Atlantic.

By comparison, newsstand sales for the industry as a whole have been weak. For the first half of 2003, sales were down 5 to 10 percent, and “efficiency” - the number of copies sold as a percentage of total copies shipped - dropped from 37 percent in 2002 to 32 percent in 2003. Foreign Affairs’ efficiency averages over 60 percent.

Overseas, the jump in sales has been just as pronounced. Since 2001, foreign newsstand sales of the English-language publication have doubled, to 12,000 copies, and the number of non-U.S. subscribers has grown by 20 percent. An additional audience reads the magazine in Japanese, Spanish, and Russian language versions.

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The heightened interest in global affairs is also evident online, with traffic to the magazine’s website, www.foreignaffairs.org, now more than two-and-a-half times its level prior to 9/11. In 2001, the site attracted an average of 75,000 unique visitors each month. Today that number is above 200,000. As a result, Foreign Affairs now sells 19 percent of all new subscriptions via its website.


Foreign Affairs is published six times a year by the Council on Foreign Relations. Founded in 1921, the Council is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.


Contact: Lisa Shields, Vice President, Communications, 212-434-9888

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