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Digital Magazine Dashboard: Winners and Losers

We finished up our Digital Dashboard for the period ending June 2015. It summarizes the performance of the Top 31 digital magazines, and there are really three big year-over-year changes to note:

The Big Loser: Sponsored subs have been largely taken out of digital subscription files, leaving digital circulation down -6.4%.


Paid Digital Subscriptions Flat: When you take out sponsored subs, digital subscriptions are negligibly down -1.6% or 34K units over last year.  In other words, the big movement is in sponsored subs, not paid digital subscriptions.

The Big Winner: When you look at digital single copy sales, there is a 56% increase year over year. Read on to find out why. 

Why Are They Winning, Losing, or Flat?

The Big Loser: Sponsored digital subscriptions are down over 52% since the period ending June 30th2014! Last year, they made up over 1M subscriptions for the titles we review; this year, barely 1/2M. This is an extraordinary and deliberate move on the part of publishers and circulation to take out this type of subscription from their files. Titles that clearly deleted Sponsored from their mix include: Taste of HomeStarShapeReader’s DigestOK! Weekly, and Men’s Fitness

Flat Digital Subscriptions (Paid): While the overall decline for subs for the Top 31 was only -1.6%,  swings either way make up that neutral number. On the positive side, 55% – 17 titles – experienced organic growth with major strides occurring at Prevention and Shape – 50% growth for each title, and Eating Well – 35% growth. On the negative side, subs are being dragged down by 7 titles that saw a decline of 15% or more. 

The Big Winner: There has been a major increase in single copy sales over the past two years. Whether a title shows the growth over the past two years or past year largely has to do with when they entered the Next Issue Media channel (as of 10/1/15 renamed Texture). Texture represents an astonishing 88% of all digital single copy sales for the 31 titles we follow. Originally set up just for the five major publishing houses--Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc.--over the past two years Texture has invited a select few to join their model. National Geographic went from a tepid barely 1,000 copies sold per issue to over 30,000 in digital single copy sales from last year, a whopping 1,527% increase. Maxim shows a similar increase of 1,223% over the past year. Women’s Health is the #1 title, selling almost 60,000 units an issue, mostly through Texture.

So, Are Sales UP or DOWN?

The answer to the question of whether sales are up or down for digital circulation differs depending upon the auditing agency this period. For BPA Worldwide, catering more to B2B titles, the answer is Yes, BPA titles have seen a 3.8% growth year over year.

  • 552 titles have digital (44% of total BPA magazines)
  • 25.7% of all circulation is digital (was 24% last half)

At Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), mostly a consumer publication auditor, the answer was No for the 29 AAM titles we are following, a 6.8% decrease year over year, mostly due to the removal of sponsored subscriptions.

  • 360 titles have digital (69% of total AAM magazines)
  • 10.3% of top 29 titles is digital (was 10.9% YOY)