Unsurprisingly, magazine media's shift from print to digital continues to be felt in the news category. According to the latest study from the Pew Research Center, however, many of the largest-circulation news magazines are mostly holding their own in print, resisting industry-wide declines while continuing to grow paid digital audiences.
Pew tracked 2015 print and digital sales for 14 leading news magazines, which it defines as those focusing on business, politics, culture, or technology, including The Economist, Time, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.
Subscriptions, which make up the overwhelming majorty of circualtion for the category, were down just two percent in 2015 compared to the year before. While not cause for celebration, given the overall industry's steeper declines in newsstand sales and print advertising revenue, a two percent dip among 14 of the largest-scale titles is encouraging.
Of the 14 magazines examined, The Nation saw the biggest decline in subscriptions, down 12 percent year-over-year. Time's subscription base fell eight percent from its 2014 total.
Overall, singly-copy sales fell three percent year-over-year for the 14 titles, a significant improvement over the much steeper declines seen in 2012 and 2013. Eight of the 14 titles sold less copies on the newsstand in 2015 than the year before, including National Review (-37 percent), The Week (-35 percent), and Wired (-25 percent). New York magazine and The Nation experienced the biggest gains, up 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively. It's worth noting that single-copy sales made up just five percent of overall circulation for the category, down from seven percent a year ago.
Meanwhile, digital subscriptions rose for the third straight year, up six percent compared to 2014. The Atlantic and New York magazine both grew their digital subscription bases by 60 percent year-over-year, with Bloomberg Businessweek following closely behind at 57 percent.
Digital single-copy sales, conducted through services like Next Issue Media's Texture app, also continue to rise, up an average of 30 percent per title. Pew does note that factors like changing accounting rules and the emergence of new platforms can have a profound impact on digital single-copy sales numbers.
The fourteen titles examined were The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, National Review, The Nation, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, The Week, Wired, and Vanity Fair. No longer audited, The New Republic and Newsweek are no longer included in the annual study.