Media & PR

Good news for journalism as news and current affairs magazines circulations grow

The future for journalism is much debated in the context of declining newspaper sales and the question of whether their online operations can bring in sufficient income, whether by advertising, paywalls or other business models.

But the latest ABC figures for magazine circulation shows that there are sectors of printed journalism which are managing to grow, despite the competition from content freely available online.

Looking at the total average net circulation figures in the “News & current affairs” category of the ABC figures, the changes year on year are:

Business and finance +5.7%
Domestic +3.4%
International +0.0% (up by a sliver)
Science -9.2%

There is significant variation within those total by title and several different approaches to circulation (e.g. how much use is made of copies that are sold at less than full price), but overall the message is clear: despite the recession, the public is willing to spend increasing sums of money on some forms of printed journalism.

2 responses to “Good news for journalism as news and current affairs magazines circulations grow”

  1. I’m not surprised (though pleased) to see these figures. Indeed, so is Ian Hislop 🙂

    Magazines have some big advantages over newspapers which make them much more robust in the face of the internet:

    1) Lower printing and distribution costs compared with price – it costs 70p to print and distribute a copy of the Economist, for example (sells for £4 on newstands); it must surely cost at least as much to print and distribute a weekday newspaper (the Guardian sells for £1.10 if I remember correctly). The profit margin is so much greater – this also applies to copies sent to subscribers.

    2) It actually gets read – a weekly/fortnightly news magazine covers the important things that happened over that period (how “important” is defined varies on whether it is a general news magazine or a specialised one). The format is concise enough that most readers will read the whole magazine – which is good for advertisers and makes readers feel they have got value for money. In contrast, most newspapers are too big for busy people to read cover-to-cover.

    3) Convenience – a magazine is more portable and more easily readable at cafés or on public transport than a newspaper; it is to the traditional broadsheet what the iPod is to a radio.

    4) Visual appeal – am I the only person who finds the clean lines of the Economist rather stylish? As compared to smudgy newsprint and the garish gimmicks so many newspapers now employ on the front page and inside. It’s not published here, but the ultimate example of a magazine that is a pleasure to look at (to read it is even better!) is the Swedish magazine Neo. (Have a look at some of their back issues and sample articles and you’ll see what I mean.)

    5) Specialised coverage – only business and finance can support a specialised daily newspaper (the FT – is it a coincidence that it is one of the last true broadsheets in terms of values?). But reduce the frequency of publication and the possibilites expand exponentially.

    What’s not to like? Are there any other advantages you can think of?

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