Consumer demand for magazine media is growing, writes Guy Consterdine, FIPP research consultant. While much of the commentary in recent years has been about falling print circulations for many magazines, consumers have been gravitating towards the digital platforms to an extent which frequently offsets any print losses.
This has been well established for many individual magazine brands in many countries, but in the USA the statistics have now been compiled for the consumer magazine industry as a whole, as well as brand by brand. From last month MPA, The Association of Magazine Media, has published an analysis called Magazine Media 360o.
Magazine Media 360o puts several sources together to quantify the changing balance of usage of magazine platforms. The statistics, taken from recognised industry currencies, show consumer demand for magazine content across multiple platforms and formats: namely print/digital editions, websites (accessed by laptop/desktop and mobile) and video. The tables show figures for 150 magazine brands which account for an estimated 95% of the reader universe.
The October report published last week, presenting September data, shows that the consumer demand for magazine media content increased by 10.6% from September 2013 to September 2014, rising to a gross audience of 1,514 million for the 150 brands.
For print and digital editions combined, their gross audiences were 2.1% higher in September 2014 compared with a year earlier. Yet their share of total audience fell slightly compared with a year before, because of the sharp rise in audiences to mobile web (90.0% increase) and video (101.6% increase from a low base).
Year on year, the profile of the audience has been moving towards the digital platforms. It is also notable that the web audiences are becoming more mobile, with smartphone/tablet access almost doubling while the more static PC/laptop access has fallen by 2.2% in the last year.
The 10.6% growth of total consumer demand in a single year proves the vitality of magazine brands. It emphasises the continuing and evolving strength of the medium, at a time when approximately 80% of advertisers who invest in magazine media buy across multiple platforms.
Collating audience data from all platforms in this way, to show the total picture, helps to shift the conversation with marketers from just print to magazine media as a whole.
This is something which can be adopted in other countries, underlining how strong magazine media are throughout the world.
MPA plan to include social media in their monthly statistics in the near future, though they will be published in a separate report because the social media audience data are too ‘squishy’ and non-comparable to combine with the existing analysis.
It will be most illuminating to see the general magnitude of the audience figures for social media. I expect them to be substantial. In Indonesia, for example, Femina weekly magazine has published statistics showing that its social media gross audience was seven or eight times larger than its combined print, digital editions and web audiences.
One can understand why these figures are so impressive. Magazine readers are enthusiastic users of social media, initiating and participating in digital conversations. After all, social media and magazine brands are both about communities. Magazines sit at the heart of many communities. Compared with the adult population, magazine readers are more likely to follow their favourite brands, participate in the discussions, make recommendations, and take action as a result of recommendations. They are ‘conversation catalysts’.