Magazine Readership Growing, Survey Shows

Digital readership up more than 80% in past year

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Some needed good news from the magazine publishing industry: As newsstand sales fell and circulation remained flat through the end of 2012, the latest data from GfK MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer, which tracks print and digital magazine audiences, shows that overall readership among adults in the U.S. continued to grow between Spring 2012 and Spring 2013 while digital readership nearly doubled.

Over the past year, the U.S. magazine adult audience (for print and digital editions combined) increased nearly 3 percent to 1.2 billion. Titles that saw the most readership growth included Diabetes Forecast (up nearly 50 percent), Yoga Journal (36.6 percent), Psychology Today (36 percent), Veranda (33.2 percent) and Food Network Magazine (28.6 percent).

Food magazines were one of the fastest-growing categories, with Food Network Magazine, EatingWell, Cooking With Paula Deen, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Cooking Light and Every Day With Rachael Ray all adding readers. Thought-leader titles like The Atlantic, The Economist, Texas Monthly, New York magazine and The New Yorker also increased their readership.

Those losing the most readers in the past year included FamilyFun (down 22.5 percent), Inc. (21.2 percent), PC World (20.4 percent), Fit Pregnancy (16.1 percent) and Star (15.3 percent). Fashion magazines were especially hard hit, with nearly every title either down or flat in readership. (Allure and W proved the exception, with sizable increases.) Men’s interest titles (including American Hunter, Bassmaster, Golf Digest, North American Fisherman, Cigar Aficionado, Playboy and Maxim) all ranked among the biggest decliners.

Although digital readership still makes up a tiny piece of the pie—measuring 1.4 percent of all magazine readership—it continues to grow rapidly. According to GfK MRI, the digital audience grew from 9.2 million in Spring 2012 to 16.9 million in Spring 2013, an increase of 83 percent. (The new MRI report is the first to compare digital readership—including tablet and replica editions, but not magazines' websites—over a yearlong period.)

ESPN The Magazine boasted the biggest digital readership, with an audience of nearly 1.1 million people. Other titles with the most digital readers included TV Guide (705,000 readers), Food Network Magazine (658,000), Sports Illustrated (544,000) and WebMD the Magazine (510,000).

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.