Manga magazine demographics
Alex Leavitt and I exchanged a few tweets yesterday about his (excellent) Yotsuba&! article, and one point that came up was the way to obtain demographic data about manga magazines. I'm surprised it's not better-known, so it probably deserves its own how-to post. Here it is.
As you know, manga magazines are divided into several categories depending on their broad target demographic, mainly manga for boys (shounen), for girls (shoujo), for men (usually seinen, literally “young men”) and for women (josei or ladies' comics, although the latter term may refer to erotic titles as well). These broad categories are used for classification, especially in book shops, so it's useful to know where a certain manga or manga magazine belongs, even though it doesn't necessarily say much about the contents of said manga (these are not genres), nor in fact about the actual gender and age of readers as we will see.
So assuming that you want to check the target demographic of some large enough manga magazine, a one-stop authoritative source is the website of the Japanese Magazine Publisher Association, where Japanese magazines are broken down in categories and listed with circulation numbers. As noted previously, the main categories of interest are manga for boys, girls, men and women, although a few manga magazines are actually classified in some other category, such as sports magazines (golf) :-). Not all manga magazines by major publishers appear in this list (for example Shuukan Shounen Champion is there, although you can probably guess its category without checking, whereas Champion Red, also by Akita shoten, isn't), but it's still quite useful.
Some classifications are bound to be surprising. In particular, the fact that Dengeki Daioh, the magazine where Yotsuba&! is serialized, is classified as shounen, is a bit unsettling. By implication, Yotsuba&!, Ichigo mashimaro and many manga adaptations of eroge should be considered shounen manga, but hey, classifications are strange sometimes. And this particular oddity isn't really relevant in practice: for example, in bookshops, I've always seen all manga volumes under the Mediaworks Dengeki Comics label sorted together in the seinen section; this label includes shounen manga magazines, seinen manga magazines, and magazines whose primary focus isn't manga but e.g. games. Yay.
But I'm getting side-tracked. The original purpose of this post was to discuss the ways to find demographic data on the readership of manga magazines, and one can actually obtain a much more interesting picture than the rather coarse classification above. For a limited number of magazines, the JMPA website itself contains rather detailed demographic data, including readers' gender and age distribution, and sometimes even income bracket, job type, education and more. First pick the demographic category: shounen, shoujo, seinen or josei, and then see if you can find the magazine you're looking for in the column on the left.
You will see for example that shounen manga magazines can primarily target grade schoolers (Cororo), middle schoolers (Shounen Jump), high school and college students (Shounen Sunday, Sunday Super) or even older men (typically Shounen Magazine, although precise data from Kodansha is hard to find online; but do see this great post by Zepy).
Additionally, publishers collect various statistics about their readers (that's one of the things the survey postcard in every issue is for) and process them into nice charts so that prospective advertisers can put their promo pages in the right periodicals. In most cases, this is all readily available on the publisher's website: just look for the section dedicated to advertisement! This covers many more magazines than are available on the JMPA website.
Here are links to the relevant pages of some publishers of interest, starting with the big three:
- Shueisha: for each magazine, you can see the prominence of various age brackets among readers, plus another statistic (usually “job type” if that applies). Note for example that 30% of Shounen Jump readers are 12 and under, and over two thirds are in primary or middle school. Probably what you expect, unless you're buying into the myth that Jump manga are targeted at “older teens”, as they say in America.
- Shogakukan: click on the magazine title (the relevant columns are 男性コミック誌 for men/boys and 女性コミック誌 for women/girls), and you'll find plenty of information on the readers' ages, their hobbies and interests and the way they spend their money. It's not necessarily very recent, however (that awesome PDF about Shounen Sunday stars Inuyasha, mentions “MD players” among gadgets readers are interested in, and was apparently made in 2001). Example tidbit: about half of Sho-Comi readers are 13 and under; yes, that's the shoujo magazine that often draws flak for being full of barely edited porn.
- Kodansha: provides very little information to unregistered users. You have to send a formal application and specify a business address in Japan to be granted access to the data. Boo Kodansha.
- Futabasha: smallish charts for age, location and job type. An impressive 2% of all readers of Comic High! are housewives, for instance, and 2.6% live in China.
- Hakusensha: an easy to navigate website with the usual charts. I like to joke about how MOE is the least moe magazine of all, and if the cover isn't enough to convince you, you will see here that its readership consists of about 55% of OL and housewives, and that half of all readers are over 30 (and no, it's not BL).
- Ichijinsha: a single webpage with age and gender info for their main magazines. If you're not familiar with Comic Yurihime, for example (the most prominent yuri manga magazine), it might surprise you that the readership is 70% female.
- Kadokawa: no-frills site that only gives the gender ration and the average age of readers (click the magazine title in the column on the left). For example, Shounen Ace has a 85% male readership, 20.5 years old on average. Note that Fujimishobo titles like Dragon Age are found here.
- Mediaworks: has a nice PDF leaflet about most of their titles (be sure to check the “game magazines” section as well for titles likes Dengeki Maoh and Dengeki G's). Mainly age and gender.
As you can see, many publishers have this kind of info online. It's not all of them, though: notable exceptions include Square Enix, Houbunsha or Media Factory.
It should be noted however that the readership of a given magazine does not necessarily reflect the readership of all manga series in it, because you don't necessarily read all titles in the magazines you buy, and more importantly because many manga readers follow tankoubon releases rather than individual magazine chapters. It is especially true of a manga like Yotsuba&!, which sells many more copies in single volume form than any issue of Dengeki Daioh does (volume 9 has sold over 500k copies, while a typical Daioh tankoubon rarely sells even a tenth as many, and the magazine itself has a circulation of about 130k).
Finally, did you know that the questions in the survey postcard of a magazine alone say a lot about the target demographic?