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Digital magazine sales still tiny overall, but titles like Reader’s Digest see huge growth

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Nearly 65 percent of U.S. magazines now have a digital replica edition, but those editions make up just under three percent of overall circulation: That’s the latest news from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), which on Thursday released its report on U.S. magazine circulation in the second half of 2012. For some individual titles, digital growth was a lot more impressive — though in some cases that’s because they’re giving away the digital edition free.

289 U.S. magazines reported that they’d sold 7.9 million digital replica editions in the last six months of 2012. That’s 2.4 percent of total circulation — up from less than 1 percent in the second half of 2011, and up from 1.7 percent in the first six months of this year. (AAM’s definition of a digital replica is that it contains “the same editorial and photojournalism as the national print edition,” though that material can be arranged differently on a tablet; nearly all digital magazines fall into this category.)

The growth looks more impressive on an individual title level, where some magazines made huge gains in digital copies: Game Informer, already by far the top magazine by digital circulation, increased that figure by 89 percent, while Cosmopolitan upped its digital circulation by nearly 40 percent in the second half of the year. Two Reader’s Digest titles — Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home — saw triple-digit-percentage growth of their digital editions, both entering the top 10 for the first time. The growth isn’t all paid: Reader’s Digest, for example, is offering print subscribers a free six-month iPad (s AAPL) subscription. But Hearst sells digital and print subscriptions separately.

Here are the top 25 U.S. consumer magazines by digital circulation as of December 31, 2012, and how much that circulation grew (or shrank) over the first six months of the year. The Alliance for Audited Media cautions that these are preliminary figures, subject to audit.

  1. Game Informer (GameStop), digital circulation: 2,305,816 (+89% over first half of 2012)
  2. Maxim (Alpha Media Group): 259,529 (-8.9%)
  3. Cosmopolitan (Hearst): 254,751 (+37.2%)
  4. National Geographic (National Geographic): 160,077 (+18.9%)
  5. Poder Hispanic (Televisa): 149,838 (-12.3%)
  6. Reader’s Digest (Reader’s Digest): 147,149 (+248.8%)
  7. Taste of Home (Reader’s Digest): 103,961 (+243.9%)
  8. Popular Science (Bonnier): 98,389 (+5.8%)
  9. ESPN the Magazine (ESPN): 92,197 (+20.4%)
  10. OK! (American Media): 88,347 (+86.7%)
  11. Parenting (Bonnier): 87,253 (+16.7%)
  12. Men’s Health (Rodale): 85,842 (+44.2%)
  13. O, the Oprah Magazine (Hearst): 84,632 (+4.2%)
  14. Wired (Condé Nast): 84,118 (+22.3%)
  15. Us Weekly (Wenner Media): 81,611 (+40.8%)
  16. Nylon (Jaclynn B. Jarrett): 77,469 (+2.5%)
  17. GQ (Condé Nast): 74,806  (+24.6%)
  18. Food Network Magazine (Hearst): 67,727 (+65.1%)
  19. Women’s Health (Rodale): 66,555 (+29.5%)
  20. Star (American Media): 59,903 (+297%)
  21. New Yorker (Condé Nast): 59,471 (+66.7%)
  22. Esquire (Condé Nast Hearst): 57,795 (+41.7%)
  23. Martha Stewart Living (Time Inc. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia): 56,068 (+28.7%)
  24. Glamour (Condé Nast): 53,794 (+56.8%)
  25. Vanity Fair (Condé Nast): 53,735 (+47.6%)

17 Responses to “Digital magazine sales still tiny overall, but titles like Reader’s Digest see huge growth”

  1. David Thomas

    My spouse and I love our NextIssue subscription, and many of the publications available through that service are experiencing a nice uptick on the list above. Is there any breakout of the effect of the Netflix/Spotify subscription services?

  2. supercoops

    Hi Laura,

    So if “It can be an iPad app or on Zinio or whatever as long as it contains the same content as the print version.” does that means that iPad only magazines can’t be audited?

  3. So much attention has been on ebooks, I’m glad to see digital magazines to show off good numbers. I’m convinced these numbers will improve as tablets reaches more users. The only thing I dislike about most digital magazines, they still lack innovation. Many are treating this like internet 1.0 and puts very little effort in their digital editions.

  4. Reblogged this on Bill Bennett and commented:
    It’s not hard to see why readers like magazine web sites or even magazine apps on tablets and smartphones. I’ve never understood the attraction of what PaidContent describes as ‘replica editions’ that is the same editorial as the print magazine wrapped up in an digital format.

    To me, digital replicas often have clumsy user interfaces – sometimes its a proprietary piece of nonsense requiring a download. Others are effectively PDFs on something similar. Many have relatively low resolution and just don’t look good on screen, Hell, some even mangle the text making it hard to read.

    Either way, it seems there is a market for them.

  5. Peter Hobday

    I would pay for a digital edition of The Economist as I travel a lot, but it is too expensive. Shame, because there are some really informative articles in the magazine. Digital strategy is one of those big questions! Free, cheaper, or same price?

  6. Futurespace magazine

    Thanks. We are publishing on tablets with Mag+ exclusively. Zinio and ISSUU were options but they don’t really feel or equate to a print reader. I know that Zinio is on tablets as well.

    It is more interesting to see the shift to tablets especially with inApp subs are as a real measure of consumer shifts.

    Some titles will appeal to early adopters. I hope to sound positive in that too many editorials were dismissive of the potential of iPad magazines vs Print.

    Tablets especially with the iPad mini and Kindle HD 7inch are just out and represent a viable popular platform.