The lead sounds like more of the same bad news for magazine publishers – newsstand sales drop, digital editions climb. Is it true that digital is poised to replace print magazines?
Not really, folks, when you do the math.
The numbers we are talking about are paid single-copy circulation figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, as reported by Tess Stynes in the Wall Street Journal.
Yes, Stynes rightly reports that “magazine circulation fell in the second half of 2013.” And that’s not great news for publishers. However, Stynes’ lead makes it seem like print magazines are in imminent danger of being overshadowed by digital.
That’s just not so. Yes, digital magazine subscriptions grew 1% in the past six months, but they still represent just a tiny fraction of the publishing pie, not even 4% of the industry. In other words, a 1% rise in digital publishing is in no way equivalent to a 1% rise or fall in print circulations. Not even close.
We never like to see circulation drops, but the idea that digital is rapidly replacing print doesn’t hold water when you look at actual circulation numbers.
Declining newsstand sales can be attributed to so many things, including a lackluster economy, the availability of discount or bundled subscriptions and so many other factors. Digital makes more of a tickle than a dent.
As Stynes mentions, “Newsstand, or single-copy, sales have been considered the best gauge of consumer demand because they can’t be propped up by deeply discounted subscriptions or free copies distributed in public places such as doctors’ offices.”
We believe that reader eyeballs are still eyeballs, even if they weren’t purchased via the newsstand. We aren’t out to change the way the auditing in done. The circulation numbers are always good to know and the trends of who is up and who is down makes for some interesting reading.
We do, however, advocate for some common sense in looking at the health of the publishing industry as a whole. Apples to apples, and all that.