The Economist and OK! on why print circulations do not paint the full picture for advertisers

With the regularity in which consumer magazines are being purchased falling over the last six months, The Economist and OK have both urged consumer magazines to not solely focus on print circulation when talking to advertisers.

There has been a 4.96% year-on-year fall in the actively purchased circulation of print consumer magazines in the UK and Ireland over the last six months, according to the latest figures from the industry’s Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). This is accompanied by a 5.99% decline in single sale subscriptions.

But despite these falls, there has been an overall increase in the circulation of magazine digital editions, rising 51.4% to 585,584. And overall total circulation, which encompasses both print and digital editions, rose 2.9% to 29,623,085 in 2016.

Over the last 18 months, celebrity-themed OK! magazine has witnessed its multi-platform audiences grow by 21%, now reaching 6.3m UK adults every month and achieving 2.2m monthly views. However the website data is not shown in OK!’s ABC figures, which only measure the print and digital edition versions of its magazine, both of whose circulations fell.

Read more: How newspapers can convince advertisers to return to print

Even if the public is less regularly purchasing consumer magazines, they cannot be written off fully, according to Sarah Perry, head of magazines and women’s media at OK! publisher Northern & Shell. She is also keen to share that the OK! app has been downloaded over 44,000 times to date.

Perry told Marketing Week: “It isn’t new news that there’s a print decline but it’s clear there’s also still a dedicated audience in place for print; digital will never replace print fully.

“Magazine brands must now realise that in this digital age they are not just about an ABC score, they are so much more than that.”

ABC appears to be listening to the likes of Perry and in order to evolve its independent circulation measures it recently launched its first Worldwide Brand Report, which will move beyond just focusing on print and digital magazine circulation to also rank a publication based on its total audience through apps, social media and websites.

The Economist was the first brand to sign up to the Worldwide Brand Report. And Michael Brunt, CMO at The Economist, has urged more consumer magazine brands to follow suit.

The Economist
The Economist says circulation alone does not translate to advertisers the success many consumer magazines are currently achieving

“We think the report achieves a sense of the full brand footprint and full engagement of our readers rather than just looking at a specific part of circulation,” he explains.

“We work quite closely with ABC to surface the things that would be the most interesting to our advertisers, to give them full picture of that engagement, and how readers are engaging with us beyond the magazine.”

The Economist saw the print circulation for its UK edition rise 2.1% year-on-year to 160,241 over the last six months. In comparison the digital edition grew at a much faster rate of 7.3% to 76,101. ABC has also provided audited circulation figures for The Economist’s website, email newsletters and social media accounts for the first time.

Brunt says consumer magazines need to reassess the trend of prioritising more traditional circulations when talking to advertisers. There is still a lack of bespoke apps for UK consumer magazines – with The Economist the only one ABC tracks – and this is something he feels must change.

He concludes: “Back in 2010 when we launched our app, we didn’t have digital-only subscribers. They are the most loyal – as they are most likely to renew subscription.

“I think publications are really missing out on an opportunity to grow circulation digitally if they’re not providing access to the publication through an app. Half of digital subscribers are using our The Economist Espresso app. It provides something different. We would be in a very different situation if we didn’t have our app.”

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