MAD Circulation Increases in 2010

December 30th, 2010 | Posted in News

Every U.S. publication having periodical publication mail privileges must furnish to the Postal Service and publish somewhere in their publication a “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation” (required by the Act of August 12, 1970, Section 3685, Title 39 of the United States Code). This is usually done in a publication’s year end issue. Yesterday on The Beat comics blog they posted an examination of the 2010 DC Comics circulation figures. MAD publishes theirs in the last issue on the news stands of the year. According to the figures in issue #507, MAD‘s annual paid distribution average per issue in 2010 was 188,825. That’s up from 2009 by a considerable 40,721 copies per issue. That’s also the highest level since 2007, and bucks a two year decline trend:

MAD Paid Circulation in the last 10 years:

  • 2001: 208,645
  • 2002: 205,441
  • 2003: 207,293
  • 2004: 211,473
  • 2005: 212,696
  • 2006: 190,956
  • 2007: 205,890
  • 2008: 174,567
  • 2009: 148,104
  • 2010: 188,825

A lot gets made of how low MAD‘s sales are now since it’s heyday, which naysayers and critics always love to attribute to a vague “drop in quality”. My usual response is asking someone to show me a single magazine that has been publishing since 1970 or earlier who’s circulation figures are not a ghostly shadow of their former selves (if they are still in business that is). I also like to point out that MAD‘s biggest 10 year drop in circulation (number of issues as opposed to percentage) was between its all time peak in 1974 at 2,132,655 and its 1983 average of 783,192. This came during the reign of all the classic MAD contributors at arguably the height of their powers. I seriously doubt there was a “drop in quality” in that decade’s time.

MAD still outsells most comic books by a pretty good margin. To put things in perspective, the best selling single issue of 2010 for DC comics according to that article in The Beat I just referenced?… Brightest Day #0 at 129,446 copies. MAD still outsold that best selling comic by an average of over 60,000 copies every issue. Some of the figures on that DC list are astounding… there was a time when only selling an average of 33,000 copies an issue¬¨‚Ć (the 2010 average for Action Comics) would get that title instantly canceled. The publishing biz is in a different place these days.

2010 was a pretty good year for MAD. Circulation rose by 27.5%. It increased in frequency from quarterly to bi-monthly. A brand new animated TV show debuted on the Cartoon Network in September. After having only done one actual movie or TV parody piece in 2009 (“Botchmen”) I am currently working on my 5th four page or longer parody in the last 6 issues, demonstrating a return to more illustration/longer narrative features in the magazine. Lot’s to like there.

What’s next for 2011? No idea… but here’s my wish list:

  • A raise for all freelancers (or at least those named Tom… you’re welcome, mssrs Bunk, Cheney and Fowler)
  • A MAD “app” for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, etc.
  • Another publication increase to 8 issue per year
  • A revamped website
  • An official digital download subscription
  • A raise for all freelancers (did I say that one already?)
  • A MAD movie that isn’t “Up the Academy”
  • More MAD on the Cartoon Network
  • A Christmas fruitcake that isn’t older than the magazine itself
  • World peace (right after we get that *#$@# Osama)

Maybe a lot to ask for, but I’ll settle for just the raise. 😀


  1. Ed Meisinger says:

    This is great news – circulation on the upswing. It would be wonderful to see MAD get back to at least 8 issues a year (their previous ouput before going monthly some years back). As a dedicated MAD fan, I’m buying extra issues and giving gift subscriptions for friends/relatives. Let’s keep MAD going through the 21st century!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks for the support, Ed! I’m glad my mom having 10 subscriptions isn’t having to carry all the weight!

  2. Scott Nickel says:

    Great news, Tom! Especially the publication increase to 8 times a year.

  3. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hi Tom, looks like things are changing in a good way for the magazine and it seems that next year will be better, the statistics dont lie and i think the people is talking about its new direction this year with the show and more publication issues. I think its a great opportunity for MAD to keep doing more changes and excitement things for new watchers and buyers, and for those who still like the MAD world dont miss a thing
    with the new wacky stuff that MAD do. I hope this year was great in all ways for you and your family. Take care.

  4. if I may piggyback onto your wishlist:

    A return to regular publication of Mad pocket sized paperbacks. Old material and new. Plenty of great Mad books out lately, but they lack the “portability”.

  5. Warren says:

    Wow, did I ever misread that title. First glance had it as, “Mad circumcision increases in 2010”.

  6. jailerjoe says:

    I got a subscription through my son’s school fundraiser…don’t remember if it was ever offered before. What about a Packer’s Super Bowl victory? Clay Matthews MVP baby! I’ll be looking for the Favre/Sterger parody in MAD…oh…in this case reality’s already nuttier! Best wishes in the new year and thanks for the blog, Tom.

  7. […] Richmond, Mad magazine illustrator, examines the required postal mailing sales figures for the publication. They show some positive news: According to the figures in issue #507, MAD‚Äö√Ñ√≤s annual paid […]

  8. Wow! I’m pleasantly surprised MAD sells so well! In terms of starting a new comic book series, 5000 copies/month seems to be the goal to hit to keep your series alive. A lot of huge titles from Dark Horse and Image sell between 15,000-25,000 per month and that’s considered really great.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, but in fairness you also have to factor in that MAD is very expensive to produce compared to a comic book title. MAD has four editors, one art director, an associate art director and a production artist. The cost of freelance work to produce a page of original content is considerably higher than that of a typical comic book page, even after we freelancers got our rates reduced when the magazine went quarterly.

      Of course the MAD staff does more than just produce the magazine. They also put together special issues, book collections, etc.

  9. Steve Rotterdam says:

    The MAD gang of idiots are some of the most talented, hardest working and unheralded heroes of the magazine world. They – and the fans who hung in there through a couple of years on a broken rollercoaster – deserve nothing but good things from here on out, including an official website that’s actually a website and a paid or sponsored app that brings MAD’s sensibilities to an audience that hungers for it but, unfortunately, has given up on the newsstand. Make mine MAD, now and forever! Happy New Year all.

  10. The answer: more longer pieces, more Herman Meija.

  11. Adam says:

    Wow! What great news! I remember looking at old issues and seeing those staggering circulation numbers. Those glory days are gone for all magazines, but they continue to thrive!

    I agree about the website. MAD has a surprisingly poor website considering the talent and content available. I think it would be a great tool to generate interest in the mag.

    In these days of trouble and turmoil, doesn’t it help to get MAD once in a while!?


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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