Top 9 Takeaways from 2016 Digital Magazine Dashboard
Magazines and newspapers are continuing to evolve, and digital magazines are no exception. Developments like Adobe allowing easier chunking of paid information and a new, if shaky, trend for magazines to institute paywalls are changing the value and the position of digital magazines.
As Next Steps Marketing does with every six-month audited period, we’ve created the Digital Magazine Dashboard to review and compare publishers, newsstand platforms, and different time periods. Below are the top 9 takeaways from this six-month period ending December 31, 2015, and compared to a year ago. We use BPA and AAM data to create this comparison of top digital titles.
1. Digital as % of total circulation holds steady. Total digital circulation as a proportion of total circulation is more or less steady, at 6.5%, compared to 6.7% last period. That’s a 2.8% decrease over a year ago.
2. Top 10 magazines are 90% consumer. The Top 10 titles with the most digital circulation have between 57.1% and 12.7% of their circulation in digital. All but one of the titles is a consumer-based title, with IEEE Spectrum being the B2B exception. The top three in digital circulation: NYLON with 57.1%, IEEE with 49.4% and Backpacker with 31.3%.
3. Sponsored subscriptions declined by almost 1/3. Sponsored subs, which took off like a bullet a year ago, have seen a steep decline over this year. While digital subscriptions have held their own, losing 1.4% over the past year, sponsored subs, dropped 27.5% over the past year and are back down to the 2013 numbers.
4. Without sponsored, digital circulation increased. Once you take out sponsored subscriptions, our Top 30 titles saw a 4.1% increase overall in total digital circulation. Five new additions entered the Top 30 pie: New York magazine and Bloomberg’s Business Week, Hot Rod, Vanity Fair, and Family Circle.
5. That 4.1% growth is fueled by digital single copy sales, which continue, with the aid of digital newsstand Texture, to flourish. Digital single copy sales gained a phenomenal 19.3% over last year.
6. There is no quick takeover from print circulation to digital. After five solid years of digital circulation, the #1 print magazine is Better Homes & Gardens at 7,289,485, and the #1 publication for digital is Maxim at 256,223. Maxim’s digital circulation makes up a mere 3.5% of Better Homes & Gardens’ print.
7. A battle is being waged between New York magazine, which made it into our Top 30 Magazines this year, and rival New Yorker, an old digital hand. While New York magazine shows tremendous digital growth (up 46% over last year), New Yorker still sells over 2X the digital subscriptions. Not so when you turn to single copy, where New York magazine is approximately 3X larger in sales than New Yorker.
8. Nook is a growing newsstand player. Turning to the newsstands themselves, we’ve added Nook, which sells more titles than Kindle or Google Play. Nook is making up 14% of market share, defined as the quantity of magazines they sell.
9. Finally, the largest magazine categories differ by newsstand platform. Apple, still the behemoth in this newsstand race, shines with Business & Investing. Nook has an amorphous category called International and it’s their #1, while Google’s leading category is Special Interest, and Kindle’s is Lifestyle & Culture. A marketing nightmare, there is clearly no standardized way of categorizing the magazines in the separate newsstands.
Download our Digital Magazine Dashboard for all the details on this ever-changing business.
M. Thea Selby is a Principal in Next Steps Marketing, a San Francisco boutique firm that solves audience-building challenges in creative, customized way using practical "call-to-action" marketing techniques where the return is clearly measurable by clicks, online sign-ups, responses to direct mail, orders from partners, or sales at newsstand.
She was the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference Chair, is a co-founder and board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing—a national organization dedicated to supporting women in and through the power of online and print media—and is the former CEO and Publisher of Light Green Media, a digital publishing company.