Why we shouldn’t panic about Shonen Jump’s falling sales… yet

I woke up this morning to see a headline from ANN about how Shonen Jump’s circulation has dropped below 2 million. Bad news for everyone, right?

The answer, I feel, is more complicated than that. Because at the heart of this is the simple truth is that manga magazine sales have been falling across the board for years. While WSJ’s fall is perhaps the most noticeable and pronounced, its competitor Weekly Shonen Magazine has also experienced a similar fall – now selling less than a million copies itself.

The reason why I remain hesitant to classify this as inherently bad is that it feels exactly the same as what we’ve seen here in the UK in regards to newspaper and magazine circulations. In the past few years we’ve seen the likes of Time Out become freebies handed out at tube stations, while only a few weeks ago came the news that once final bastion of music mag sales Kerrang was to go monthly.

So when manga fans comment that Shonen Jump must ‘do’ something to arrest the sales fall and ‘climb’ back to its former glory, it misses the point to a certain degree. The horse has bolted – so to speak. Nothing – arguably – will reverse this trend; only, potentially, slow it. When people attach certain significance to individual series, ie. (if only Hunter x Hunter was to return!) or (if only Shonen Jump had serialized Attack on Titan instead of Kodansha) – it sees only a short term picture instead of the long term downward trend.

What, I feel, is of more significance here is what WSJ is *actually* doing to try and halt the fall. I watched an excellent video from one of my favourite anime YouTubers right now – Super Eyepatch Wolf – where he talks about how what WSJ needs isn’t a selection of moderately successful series (eg. Black Clover, Nisekoi etc.) but one or two MEGA smashes like My Hero Academia or Assassination Classroom.

Of course, not every series can be the ‘next One Piece’ – but WSJ can at least function in the hope of that, whilst all the while facing the reality that one day, inevitably, One Piece *will* eventually end, just like Bleach and Naruto before it.

But in the mean time WSJ is fast undergoing efforts to do absolutely everything in its power to manufacture another MEGA hit of – at the very least – Ass Class style proportions. In many ways, Ass Class is kind of a model series – burning short and bright, lasting only four years, but being all kinds of hot during those years.

By axing middling series and replacing them with a constant stream of new titles (from which the mediocre ones will again be axed) WSJ has essentially created a rolling conveyor belt – a veritable production line in service of creating the next hit; all via process of elimination. What of it if ten average series have to die in the process – having released only two or three volumes worth of material? If even one big hit (say current flavour of the moment The Promised Neverland, or the promising Dr. Stone) is created in the process, then they’ve ‘won’.

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7 Replies to “Why we shouldn’t panic about Shonen Jump’s falling sales… yet”

  1. I was a subscriber to WSJ’s English-language digital-only (paper, before that) for YEARS. I’m pretty sure they give no craps about the dinky English-reading market, but I dropped my subscription because because they give no craps about the English-reading market. I found out from fan sources that Bleach was ending because they didn’t bother to translate splash pages or even otherwise translate information to that effect. I just gave up on them. I’d been supporting them because even though I was reading the fan scanlations (because pirates had them weeks earlier) I wanted to compare official translations AND because it was the right thing to do.
    But they wouldn’t even respond on twitter when I called them out to explain why they were actively scrubbing pages that had information about the ending in the final panels.
    It was frustrating. I wish they were a better company. I love my old JUMP magazines.

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    1. I think they do care about the English market – just perhaps not so much for super hardcore fans, but then, those are likely the people who go straight to fan translations anyway. Viz – perhaps more than any of the other English publishers, aims for the mainstream market and the mass sales – but I think it’s interesting how more and more ‘premium’ products are being introduced into their line-up vs. the bog standard Shonen stuff

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      1. And Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I have so many Yu-Gi-Oh cards due to my subscription. Something, I never, in point of fact, EVER needed.
        I would have preferred they stayed as an English print magazine, too, but I guess the cost of sending all their subscribers stupid shiny Yu-Gi-Oh cards instead of a nice, fat, printed magazine with extras and (believe it or not one of the things I miss) advertisements.

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      2. Yeah, I can’t imagine the cost of the print mag was worth it when you can do it digital-only instead. I agree re. The Yu GI oh thing – it’s constantly pushing yu GI oh merch even now, and to be honest I find the Yu GI oh manga hard to follow as it’s so rule heavy.

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  2. A fellow UK blogger! HI!

    This was a very interesting read and you raised some excellent points, especially when comparing their falling sales to that of our Print and Magazine market here. I work in retail and a lot of it has to do with the simple fact that physical print is dying. Consumers are much quicker to download digital copies or read things online because the information is available faster and more conveniently. Its not just for print but most high street stores of any kind are struggling and losing out to online competitors by a large margin.

    I dont know if its the same in Japan by any degree, but i wouldn’t be surprised if it were, considering how mobile heavy their society is now. Having another Mega hit could help sales, but as you say, it will only slow the trend.

    Thanks for this great post! Also, I didn’t know Kerrang had switched to a monthly publication, that’s kinda sad 😦

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for you comment. Yeah, I was shocked to hear about the Kerrang news too – but I guess it’s not too surprising – while it held out longer than most (it was still getting 40,000 sales a week only a few years ago, when NME was sinking below 20,000) – but it too has finally started really sinking over the last few years. The UK magazine market is really losing readers fast – the only ones that really still post decent numbers are the Supermarket mags, big women’s mags like Heat etc, or glossy lifestyle publications like GQ. Why pay £3-£6 for a massive magazine these days when quality writing is available online for free? For the average person, it’s a no brainer – so the sales fall. Supermarkets have been shrinking their mag sections to the bare essentials, and quite a few WH Smiths have been shutting down on the highstreet too.

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