Digital-Only Magazine Readership Up Nearly 50 Percent

GfK MRI finds overall readership increases slightly

Magazines’ newsstand sales may be struggling, but there’s a bright spot when it comes to digital readership. Today, GfK MRI released its fall 2012 Survey of the American Consumer, which tracks print and digital magazine readership, and found that magazine readership had increased by 1.6 percent (or nearly 20 million people) to 1.2 billion people since last spring. That was helped by a significant bump in digital consumption: Readership of magazines' digital editions jumped 47 percent, or 4.4 million people, to more than 13.5 million.

Among the magazines with the biggest digital readerships were ESPN The Magazine, which had 967,000 digital-only readers (despite a drop in overall readership), WebMD the Magazine (767,000 digital readers), and Food Network Magazine (541,000).

Still in growth mode, Food Network Magazine also had the largest overall readership increase in raw numbers, adding nearly 1.3 million readers (or 14 percent) across print and digital. Other big readership gainers were big-circulation titles like AARP The Magazine and TV Guide (up 4 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively) as well as two more food titles, Bon Appétit and Cooking with Paula Deen. (Speaking of Paula Deen, Diabetic Cooking magazine had the third-highest readers increase of any magazine, while Diabetes Forecast and Diabetes Self-Management also saw big gains.)

Thought-leader titles such as The Atlantic, Time, Wired, New York and Texas Monthly all gained readers between the spring and fall surveys (during the same time that the heated 2012 election cycle was nearing its end). Special-interest magazines about gaming, cars and motorcycles, and the outdoors also increased their numbers. MRI compared its fall and spring surveys because a change in methodology made year-over-year comparisons invalid.

The celebrity and women's categories proved weaker. Us Weekly, Star, In Touch, National Enquirer and OK! all lost readers against a backdrop of soft newsstand sales (although People managed to gain 1.5 percent). Among women's books, big decliners included Teen Vogue (off 17.7 percent), Elle (down 10.2 percent), O, The Oprah Magazine (down 4.4 percent) and Vogue.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.