‘Economist’ Reveals Digital Circ

Magazines slow to adopt new reporting format

As the number of digital reading devices has grown, publishers have evolved to keep up. So, too, have the firms that audit them. Last year, with ad buyers clamoring for more information about print audiences, the Audit Bureau of Circulations launched a voluntary product called the Consolidated Media Report that presents publications’ total brand footprint across print and digital platforms.

So far, 30 or so newspapers have released Consolidated Media Reports. Magazines have been slow to follow suit, but they’re starting to. On April 30, The Economist will release a CMR, the second major title to do so. (Popular Science released the first one last fall, and parent Bonnier Corp. is getting ready to release reports for three more titles, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Popular Photography.)

The Economist has had a good print and digital story to tell, so it’s not totally surprising that it’s one of the first to adopt this new reporting format. It’s bucked the downward circulation trend despite its high price. (An annual print subscription averages $105.) And unlike most magazines, it doesn’t give away its print content online.

In addition to the print circulation stats that are in every magazine’s ABC Publisher’s Statement, The Economist’s CMR reveals that its digital edition averaged about 48,000 in sales for March—about 6 percent of total circulation, putting it at the high end of magazines. There were 255,000 readers. At $105 for an annual subscription, the digital edition commands a premium as the print does.

Figures are for North America only. They refer to editions sold on the iPad, iPhone, Android and Kindle. They exclude The Economist’s replica editions that are sold on the Kindle Fire and Nook Color and Zinio subscriptions.

“What we wanted to do in putting it out is have some transparency,” said Paul Rossi, managing director and evp, Americas, for The Economist. “No one is requiring them, but there is a lot of grumbling that [magazines] aren’t transparent, and we aren’t giving them the information the agencies want.”

Rossi shared other digital details not included in the report. He said that 70 percent of The Economist’s digital subscribers are not former print subscribers and that 20 percent of The Economist’s single copy sales are of back issues—evidence that digital platforms are expanding rather than cannibalizing the reader base.

“Digital is an opportunity for us, bringing more people in,” he said. “We see absolutely that digital is additive.”


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