With many publishers focused on the future of digital books, it’s easy to forget that digital magazines are an entirely different format in its own right. No worries, you guys are not forgotten: New figures released Thursday suggest that digital magazines have found more of an audience in the second half of last year.
According to the Alliance for Audited Media’s semi-annual “Snapshot” report of U.S. consumer magazines, sales of digital magazines “more than doubled” in the latter half of 2012 when compared with the same period a year earlier. The number of magazines now offering digital editions has also risen compared to the end of 2011.
The “Snapshot” report reveals that 7.9 million digital magazines were sold in the final six months of 2012, up from 3.2 million in the back end of 2011. Almost a third of that total comes from sales of Game Informer Magazine, which managed sales of 2.3 million over the six month period – substantially higher than the digital circulation of the next-best selling magazine, Maxim, which only managed 259,529 digital sales for the same six month period.
Game Informer’s digital sales are significant not only for their out-of-scale success within the digital field, but for the fact that those figures match up with the combined print-and-digital sales of successful mainstream titles like ESPN The Magazine, Redbook, and Parenting. In fact, outside of the Game Informer numbers, the majority of top-selling magazines in digital format are familiar titles such as Cosmopolitan, National Geographic, and Reader’s Digest (The titles that round out the top 5 best-sellers); in general, the titles that do best in digital format also sell well in print, suggesting that the two audiences mirror each other to some extent.
That mirroring is something that could offer some comfort to the magazine publishing industry as a whole. After all, what is likely to be of most interest to publishers in the report isn’t just the rise of digital magazine sales in and of themselves, but the fact that that rise happened at the same time that total circulation for magazines is falling. According to the AAM’s report, total paid circulation is down 0.3 percent; Single-copy sales fell far more with an 8.2 percent drop when compared with the same period in 2011 (The difference is made up by the fact that paid subscriptions, which constitute the majority of magazine sales, actually saw a bump of 0.7 percent year-on-year).
Although digital magazine distribution may only make up a small percentage of present overall magazine circulation, if the current trends continue at their current rate – or, in a worse case scenario, the drop-off in print circulation increases – then digital will start becoming more important if magazines are to survive. With 65 percent of magazines currently offering digital editions, it’s hard to imagine that number won’t jump higher in the next twelve months.