Magazines have been hunkering down the past two years to translate their content to tablets and e-readers, but they have little to show for their efforts so far.
Digital editions totaled 3.1 million in the second half of 2011, about 1 percent of total circ, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But minus sponsored copies, which are paid for by businesses and not indicative of consumers’ willingness to spend on them, individually paid digital editions made up less than 1 percent of total circulation.
A handful managed to show significant consumer-paid digital circulation, however.
The Economist’s digital circ of 44,760 is about even with its print single-copy sales. Popular Science‘s digital circ was about 40,000, close to half its newsstand number. ESPN The Magazine’s digital circ (mostly individually paid) was 78,181 and National Geographic's, 68,683. The title with the biggest digital circ was Game Informer magazine, with 589,565 digital editions.
Often, big magazines had large digital edition sales to match, but not always. Exceptions were People (which opted for a different model, making its iPad edition free to subscribers), Better Homes and Gardens, and Good Housekeeping.