Digital edition success stories

While digital editions still represent a small proportion of global magazine sales, the sector has witnessed some recent big successes especially in the influential UK market. This is based in part on great content, but also bundled pricing which makes subscribing to the digital edition a no brainer for many consumers. 
Between 2013 and 2014, the number of digital editions (which are defined by ABC as digital versions that are almost identical to the print version) rose by 33.1 per cent with digital magazines accounting for 714,655 sales per issue in the second half of 2014. 

However, after a period of sustained growth over several years, the latest figures for the first half of 2015 show a more mixed picture. Of the 90 digital magazine editions audited by ABC in this period, 37 actually saw their circulations fall including Cosmopolitan (down 21 per cent to 4,905), Empire (down 12.5 per cent to 11,443) and Men’s Health (down 12.1 per cent to 9,113).

Nevertheless in amongst the list are some successes too with lads mags like FHM and Zoo seeing their digital circulations rise significantly albeit from a low base (FHM up 61.4 per cent to 5,486 and Zoo up 57.1 per cent to 3,214) at the same time as their print circulations experience double digit decline. Meanwhile, news based titles like The Economist and The Week continue to dominate this space thanks to some great content and aggressive pricing. 

Here then are five examples of UK digital editions that are proving very successful.

The Economist 
Publisher: The Economist Group 

Leading the digital pack by quite some way, The Economist has seen its digital circulation shoot through the roof over the last few years, reaching sales of 70,953 for the UK edition alone – a year on year increase of 225 per cent. In part this is due to the bundled pricing which means you can get both the magazine and the digital edition for just £1 a week. As well as providing full access to the Economist apps via your device (iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows 8, Chrome, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire are all supported), the subscription also gives you access to the new Economist Espresso directly to your smartphone or inbox. Says Michael Brunt, chief marketing officer at The Economist: “Our latest circulation numbers are in line with what we have seen over the last few years – a steady migration to digital. Whilst the majority of our new customers still choose a subscription that provides both print and digital formats, the number choosing digital-only circulation has grown tremendously.”

The Week

Publisher: Dennis Publishing

Like The Economist, Dennis Publishing’s The Week is another digital success story, in part due to its bundled pricing which has helped to lift digital sales to 30,750 per edition – a year on year increase of 17 per cent. Users subscribing to the print edition pay £100 a year but if they want print and digital it’s £110 so really it does make sense to get both. Essentially the digital edition is a replica of the print edition, but there are a few bonuses including the Daily Briefing – ten things you need to about the day – which is a piece of embedded live content on the app. Despite the success of the digital edition though its publisher Kerin O’Connor doesn’t expect the digital version to catch up with print anytime soon. “If you’re operating in a mass news or entertainment segment it’s very difficult to make any massive shift from print to digital.” In the latest set of ABCs, the print version of the magazine also rose to 202,842 – a year on year increase of 1.7 per cent.


Publisher: Bauer Media group

One of the UK’s biggest men’s lifestyle magazines, Bauer Media’s FHM features exclusive, interactive content every month in the digital edition. And while numbers for the digital version remain a modest 5,486 copies per issue sold digitally, growth is very strong at over 60 per cent year on year. The digital edition is available to download on Apple and Android devices for £12 for six editions.


Publisher: Condé Nast

Described by its publisher as the magazine for smart, intellectually curious people who need and want to know what’s next, Wired covers technology, ideas, design, culture, business, politics and much more. As well as interesting articles especially around developments in the consumer tech industry, it also features some stunning photography. Available on iPad, iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire, you can currently get six print editions of Wired for £9 complete with digital versions on the iPad and iPhone free of charge. Alternatively you can subscribe to the digital only version for £1.99 per month (this offer also includes Android and Amazon versions).

Top Gear

Publisher: BBC Worldwide

While the print edition of Top Gear saw a year on year fall of 8.7 per cent from the first half of 2014 to 2015, in the same period sales of the digital edition grew 7.4 per cent to 14,562 – no doubt boosted by the saga of Jeremy Clarkson and his co-presenters leaving the hit BBC2 motoring show. Now the third biggest digital title in the UK after The Economist and The Week, the Top Gear digital magazine is available on the iPad as a digital subscription for £24.99 for 12 months (13 editions).

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