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Annual Ranking Based on Net Paid Circulation 1950 to 1970

When it came to automotive magazines and this website, I was curious about publishing data. Specifically, what publisher had the largest market share in the 1945 to 1975 timeframe that the website covers? What were the year-over-year growth rates for specific titles? Given the East Coast vs. West Coast publishing realm, who controlled the market with the largest print volumes?

After some research, I came across the annual magazine publishing data from NW Ayer and Sons. Based in Philadelphia, Ayer had been around since the 1860s. They provided distribution volumes submitted by newspapers, trade, and general interest magazine publishers. So after many rounds with my local library, I was able to get data from 1950 through 1970.

Ayer provides what is called net paid circulation numbers in their annual tally. It is six months of printed magazine volumes after deducting left-over, unsold, returned, sample, exchange or advertiser copies. From this I was able to derive monthly net paid circulation numbers and rank-order the magazine titles on monthly print volume. I recognize this is a crude measure of market share as profit is the ultimate measure.

Note that net paid circulation numbers are based on either audited results, Post Office data, or unaudited publisher submittals. Unaudited publisher submittals are prone to error or exaggeration. And not all automotive publishers submitted data. Some publishers used “swag” or “plug” numbers when they didn’t have actual data. This is obvious when the same net paid circulation number is submitted over multiple years.

Here's the year-by-year breakdown of automotive titles based on monthly net paid circulation ranked high to low.  Not all magazines on my website are listed below as publishers did not submit their data for all titles.

1950 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             19,893 63%
Hot Rod               7,887 25%
Speed Age               3,729 12%
            31,510
1951 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             18,678 49%
Motor Trend             12,791 34%
Speed Age               6,289 17%
            37,758
1952 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             39,414 45%
Motor Trend             34,681 39%
Speed Age             13,780 16%
            87,874
1953 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             56,370 31%
Motor Trend             55,099 30%
Speed Age             23,930 13%
Road & Track             18,667 10%
Auto Sport Review             16,333 9%
Auto (monthly)             13,600 7%
          183,999
1954 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             74,693 36%
Hot Rod             62,185 30%
Speed Age             32,928 16%
Road & Track             18,667 9%
Auto Sport Review             16,333 8%
          204,805
1955 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             71,835 28%
Hot Rod             57,050 22%
Auto Age             33,333 13%
Motor Life             26,137 10%
Car Craft             19,167 7%
Speed Age             18,716 7%
Road & Track             16,667 6%
Rod & Custom             16,556 6%
          259,460
1956 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             80,730 32%
Hot Rod             60,009 24%
Motor Life             31,547 12%
Rod & Custom             22,681 9%
Car Craft             20,844 8%
Speed Mechanics             15,340 6%
Road & Track             13,542 5%
Motorsport             10,127 4%
          254,820
1957 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             74,959 26%
Hot Rod             63,984 22%
Motor Life             30,872 11%
Car Craft             25,202 9%
Rod & Custom              24,706 9%
Speed Age             16,901 6%
Road & Track             15,826 5%
Sports Car Illustrated             12,134 4%
Speed Mechanics             11,992 4%
Auto Craftsman             11,667 4%
          288,243
1958 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Motor Trend             76,891 20%
Hot Rod             72,875 19%
Custom Cars             41,667 11%
Motor Life             36,975 10%
Car Craft             29,014 8%
Rod & Custom             27,004 7%
Car Life             22,459 6%
Sports Car Illustrated             19,312 5%
Road & Track             18,469 5%
Rod Builder & Customizer             15,133 4%
Speed Mechanics             10,980 3%
Auto Craftsman             10,308 3%
          381,087
1959 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             74,263 21%
Motor Trend             65,075 18%
Motor Life             28,791 8%
Rod & Custom             25,077 7%
Car Craft             24,278 7%
Car Life             22,459 6%
Road & Track             22,033 6%
Custom Cars             22,032 6%
Speed Age             21,758 6%
Rodding & Restyling             19,167 5%
Rod Builder & Customizer             15,323 4%
Auto Craftsman             10,308 3%
Speed Mechanics             10,180 3%
          360,744
1960 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             85,331 22%
Motor Trend             59,711 16%
Motor Life             29,791 8%
Car Craft             26,832 7%
Rod & Custom             26,388 7%
Sports Car Graphic             24,841 7%
Road & Track             22,849 6%
Car Life             22,459 6%
Custom Cars             21,993 6%
Rodding & Restyling             19,167 5%
Speed Age             17,258 5%
Rod Builder & Customizer             15,323 4%
Speed Mechanics               7,979 2%
          379,921
1961 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod             99,399 24%
Motor Trend             62,393 15%
Car Craft             30,653 7%
Car Life             30,000 7%
Motor Life             29,208 7%
Sports Car Illustrated             28,628 7%
Custom Cars & Karts             26,667 6%
Rod & Custom             26,388 6%
Road & Track             25,160 6%
Custom Rodder             16,950 4%
Car Speed & Style             16,775 4%
Custom Craft             11,667 3%
Speed Mechanics               7,519 2%
How To Hop-Up Your Engine               6,667 2%
          418,072
1962 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           112,707 28%
Motor Trend             64,868 16%
Car Craft             33,886 8%
Car & Driver             32,906 8%
Road & Track             26,914 7%
Car Life             25,000 6%
Rod & Custom             25,000 6%
Custom Rodder             18,333 5%
Rodding & Restyling             17,892 4%
Speed Mechanics             15,000 4%
Custom Craft             12,500 3%
Sports Car Graphic             10,000 2%
How To Hop-Up Your Engine               8,333 2%
          403,340
1963 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           106,285 22%
Motor Trend             77,257 16%
Car Craft             39,217 8%
Car & Driver             35,108 7%
Road & Track             30,146 6%
Cars magazine             29,222 6%
Rod & Custom             28,643 6%
Custom Rodder             25,424 5%
Car Life             25,000 5%
Sports Car Graphic             19,048 4%
Rodding & Restyling             17,949 4%
Speed Mechanics             15,113 3%
Customs Illustrated             13,777 3%
Custom Craft             12,637 3%
How To Hop-Up Your Engine               9,658 2%
          484,482
1964 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           106,311 22%
Motor Trend             86,482 18%
Car & Driver             39,223 8%
Car Craft             34,303 7%
Road & Track             30,876 6%
Cars magazine             30,298 6%
Speed & Custom             28,430 6%
Rod & Custom             27,544 6%
Popular Customs             20,833 4%
Sports Car Graphic             20,181 4%
Car Life             19,297 4%
Rodding & Restyling             17,949 4%
Customs Illustrated             13,777 3%
          475,503
1965 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           114,318 21%
Motor Trend             77,550 14%
Car & Driver             35,049 6%
Road & Track             33,584 6%
Car Craft             32,820 6%
Cars magazine             30,298 6%
Popular Hot Rodding             30,150 6%
Speed & Custom             28,430 5%
Rod & Custom             24,630 5%
Sports Car Graphic             22,414 4%
Popular Customs             20,833 4%
American Rodding             20,833 4%
Car Life             19,364 4%
Customs Illustrated             18,333 3%
Modern Rod             17,000 3%
Drag Racing             17,000 3%
          542,606
1966 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           120,313 23%
Motor Trend             81,586 15%
Car & Driver             46,857 9%
Road & Track             39,483 7%
Car Craft             35,573 7%
Popular Hot Rodding             26,752 5%
Rodding & Restyling             25,388 5%
Sports Car Graphic             23,363 4%
Rod & Custom             21,915 4%
Popular Customs             20,833 4%
American Rodding             20,833 4%
Car Life             20,139 4%
Customs Illustrated             18,333 3%
Drag Racing             15,792 3%
Modern Rod             13,625 3%
          530,785
1967 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           119,733 22%
Motor Trend             83,627 16%
Car & Driver             59,659 11%
Road & Track             42,445 8%
Car Craft             36,766 7%
Popular Hot Rodding             31,539 6%
Sports Car Graphic             25,534 5%
Rodding & Restyling             25,388 5%
Car Life             21,053 4%
Popular Customs             20,833 4%
American Rodding             20,833 4%
Rod & Custom             19,156 4%
Super Stock / Drag Illus             16,906 3%
Drag Racing             14,041 3%
          537,510
1968 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           121,997 20%
Motor Trend             85,020 14%
Car & Driver             65,551 11%
Road & Track             45,082 7%
Cars magazine             37,760 6%
Car Craft             37,406 6%
Popular Hot Rodding             33,222 5%
Speed & Supercar             31,164 5%
Rodder & Super Stock             28,412 5%
Sports Car Graphic             25,555 4%
Car Life             19,744 3%
Rod & Custom             19,048 3%
Custom & Rod Ideas             18,046 3%
Super Stock / Drag Illus             16,906 3%
Drag Racing             12,527 2%
Drag Strip             11,848 2%
          609,286
1969 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           131,206 21%
Motor Trend             83,351 13%
Car & Driver             72,406 11%
Road & Track             48,915 8%
Car Craft             40,930 6%
Cars magazine             37,760 6%
Popular Hot Rodding             34,182 5%
Speed & Supercar             31,164 5%
Rodder & Super Stock             28,412 4%
Sports Car Graphic             22,822 4%
Car Life             21,727 3%
Rod & Custom              19,290 3%
Super Stock / Drag Illus             19,009 3%
Custom & Rod Ideas             18,046 3%
Drag Racing             13,858 2%
Drag Strip             13,417 2%
          636,491
1970 Monthly Net Paid Circulation Percent
Hot Rod           144,117 24%
Motor Trend             88,179 15%
Car & Driver             83,387 14%
Road & Track             52,632 9%
Car Craft             47,818 8%
Popular Hot Rodding             41,026 7%
Car Life             24,408 4%
Sports Car Graphic             23,465 4%
Super Stock / Drag Illus             20,876 3%
Rod & Custom              20,231 3%
Custom & Rod Ideas             18,046 3%
Rodder & Super Stock             16,667 3%
Drag Racing             13,858 2%
Drag Strip             13,417 2%
          608,126

 

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