Publishers haven’t given up hope on digital editions yet, but the industry might run out of patience soon.
Digital edition circulation was up again, according to statements from both major audit houses, the Alliance for Audited Media and BPA Worldwide, though just barely this time.
The former actually reported a year-over-year decline in digital circulation through the first six months of 2015, down to 11.3 million issues, though that’s a little misleading since the total number of titles in the study shrunk as well.* Looking only at magazines audited in both years, digital circulation grew 2.6 percent. Overall growth was at 13 percent in the same period last year, and nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013.
Numbers were up, but losses weren’t uncommon. Even Game Informer, which, with 2.7 million digital readers accounts for almost a quarter of the total market, saw a 3.4 percent decline in circulation. And much digital growth came at the expense of print readership as publishers cut costs.
Other major magazines did see legitimate digital gains however. Allrecipes (115 percent), New York (111 percent), Family Circle (89 percent), Better Homes and Gardens (86 percent) and National Geographic Traveler (85 percent) were all winners to start the year.
Digital circulation was more common among BPA’s titles. The firm doesn’t release exact circulation figures, but says digital issues accounted for 25.7 percent of all qualified circulation through the end of last year, up from 24 percent in the previous period. It also says nearly 44 percent of its 550-plus brands reported at least some digital readership.
In comparing numbers here, it’s worth nothing that BPA’s client roster is made up of a mix of B2B and consumer magazines, while AAM serves consumer titles almost exclusively. Additionally, the timeframes of the respective studies don’t line up—BPA’s report looks at July 1 – Dec. 31, 2014; AAM’s examines Jan. 1 – June 30, 2015.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that AAM measured digital circulation at 11.4 million issues.