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Summary:

Digital-replica magazine circulation has grown fast this year. But, so far, the emerging sector is still too tiny to have any positive impact on an industry whose overall circulation goes on declining.

UK digital magazine circulation has doubled already this year. That is growth typical of a new digital segment – but it’s still nowhere near enough to stop magazine circulation as a whole continuing to slide.

Latest ABC (UK) data shows digital editions of consumer magazines clocked up a total 185,210 in average monthly circulation during the first half of this year…

But, across print and digital, the UK’s top 100 consumer magazines lost three percent of their average monthly actively-purchased circulation…

Magazines have lost lost a third of their readers in the last seven years. Digital editions’ circulation makes up just 0.73 percent of the total. That is less than half the U.S. equivalent, as reported earlier this week, which is also small.

What growth digital magazines have shown is partly down to the growing number of publishers starting digital editions for the first time. From publishing data on just 15 digital editions in its first disclosure on the new segment in mid-2011, the ABC now counts 61 titles.

The UK’s most popular digital-replica magazine is Hearst’s Cosmopolitan, with 13,298 sales. The poorest is Kane’s Front, with just 52.

In truth, Future’s gadget mag T3 is the country’s most-sold digital magazine with 17,682 downloads. The title is a full-fledged interactive app rather than a digital replica and is excluded from the above digital replica category. Today, it became the first to report digital circulation using a new ABC certificate for such channels.

T3‘s success ahead of the pack may suggest that what consumers want is not necessarily a printed magazine repackaged for tablets but a new kind of experience. But the reason may also be that gadget fans are naturally more likely to gravitate toward using iPads.

  1. Magazines were born from necessity – short form content bundled together for distribution purposes. There are unnecessary in the digital age, and should rightfully fade away.

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  2. Why does digital magazine reporting always have to be laced with negativity? In February the top digital ABC was 7,779. Now it’s 17,682 – 127% growth in six months

    That outperforms any other kind of growth reported this ABC period, surely? OK, the numbers aren’t as big, but we’re going from a standing start, this is an industry in its infancy. Growth is always important.

    I work at T3, and what’s also apparently being lost in this reporting is we also sell 10k a month of our Zinio digital replica (the figure that every other magazine is quoting, as we are the only iPad edition to have a certified ABC in its own right).

    We post annual ABCs, and in Feb this year the Zinio number was recorded around the 7k mark, if we’re going strictly official – which actually takes T3, officially, to around 25k sales a month – more than a third of our 70k circulation, which is the brand’s best ever.

    So if you combine T3′s two official digital ABCs, the six-monthly rise from the highest digital ABC in February to now is actually 221%, if we’re talking issue sales not advertising exposure.

    Let’s not confuse ABC – a measurement of how many people see an advert and no more – with actual digital sales. They are different. T3 has interactive iPad and Android Editions, alongside Zinio+ version, a flat Kindle Fire one for the US, and there will be more, and not all are yet counted on our ABC.

    You’re right, typically mass-market mainstream brands may struggle to find the level of audience they need, but niche brands and cleverly targeted magazines – The Week is a great example – are thriving just fine. Talking about the industry as if it’s one entity rather than digging deeper isn’t doing anyone any favours

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