New Study Shows News Magazine Single-Copy Digital Sales Up 30 Percent

Digital Subscriptions Up 6 Percent, Evidence of Shift to Digital

Subscription News: New Study Shows News Magazine Digital Subscriptions Up 6 Percent

Source: Pew Research Center

A recent Pew Research Center study of 14 news magazines shows single copy sales for digital issues are up an average of 30 percent and digital subscriptions are up 6 percent, while print subscriptions and newsstand sales dropped slightly. Though the data varies across titles, most of the magazines saw year-over-year gains in their website traffic as well, reports Pew Research Center.

Listed in alphabetical order, the news magazines included in the study were The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, National Review, The Nation, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, The Week, Wired and Vanity Fair, said Folio. The New Republic and Newsweek used to be included in the annual study, but they are not included anymore because they are no longer audited.

Highlights from the study include the following:

Single copy (newsstand) sales decreased 3 percent in 2015, an average decrease in sales per news magazine of about 1,300.

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–      National Review’s single copy sales dropped 37 percent.

–      The Week’s single copy sales dropped 35 percent.

–      Wired’s single copy sales dropped 25 percent.

–      New York Magazine’s single copy sales increased 44 percent.

–      The Nation’s single copy sales increased 65 percent, from a smaller circulation base.

News magazine subscriptions, which compromise nearly all of news magazine circulation, are fairly stable, said Pew Research Center. Subscriber acquisition and subscription retention are helped by discounts and other special promotions. Overall, subscriptions were down 2 percent from 2014 levels.

YearAverage Overall Monthly Subscriptions


Circulation (single copy sales + subscriptions) for 2015 was down slightly as well at 2 percent. All but four the 14 news magazines in the study experienced some level of circulation decline, but the declines were larger for magazines with circulation above 900,000. Those high-circulation magazines had an average decline of 3 percent. On the flip side, The Atlantic experienced a 2 percent increase in circulation last year.

YearAverage Overall Circulation


On a positive note, Pew Research Center reported that digital single-copy sales continue to grow. However, data prior to 2013 is inconsistent, so it is important to focus on the last few years for an accurate picture, said Pew Research Center.


Average digital single copy sales












In terms of digital magazine sales, Pew Research Center pointed out that it is difficult to track sales accurately over time because new delivery platforms like Next Issue Media’s Texture, Readly, Magzter Gold and mobile apps are consistently changing the subscription magazine landscape. Pew Research Center reported these trends:

–      Single copy sales for digital issues increased an average of 30 percent to more than 12,000 average sales per magazine title.

–      New York Magazine had 64 percent growth with about 17,000 new sales.

–      Bloomberg Businessweek grew by 54 percent.

–      Rolling Stone had growth of 35 percent with just over 8,000 new sales on average.

–      Vanity Fair, Time and Fortune had average increases of above 30 percent each.

Subscription News: New Study Shows News Magazine Digital Subscriptions Up 6 Percent

Source: Magzter Gold

Pew said some of the growth in this area is because of services like Texture and Magzter Gold which offer their subscribers unlimited digital access to the publications with whom they have relationships. Sales from such services compromise more than 95 percent of digital single copy sales, rather than single copy sales from other sources like Google Play or the App Store.

Digital subscriptions rose 6 percent, or an average of about 36,000 new subscribers per magazine. While these are encouraging figures, digital subscriptions still only make up about 4 percent of total subscriptions. The Atlantic and New York Magazine had the highest increases at 60 percent each, with Bloomberg Businessweek following closely at 57 percent, reported Pew Research Center.

To measure online traffic, Pew Research Center worked with comScore. According to the data for 12 of the magazines (The Nation and Bloomberg Business were not included), more people are visiting news magazine sites online, but they are spending less time on them than in 2014. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the average number of monthly unique visitors was about 13 million monthly visitors. Seven of the 12 sites had traffic increases of at least 10 percent in 2015 compared to 2014.

The data also showed that mobile traffic is growing in popularity. Mobile traffic for 10 of the 12 sites increased, while desktop traffic only grew for five of the 12 news magazine sites.

Insider Take:

There is a lot of data in this report, but we can summarize the data points to give an overall picture of news magazine trends.

–      News magazine subscription numbers are holding steady.

–      Digital single-copy sales are growing for news magazines, largely due to services like Texture, Readly and Magzter Gold which provide all-access digital access to the titles in their catalog for a flat monthly fee ($4.50 to $15 a month, depending on service and current promotions).

–      Digital subscriptions continue to grow.

–      More readers are accessing news magazines on their mobile devices, but their “time on site” is declining.

What isn’t clear because of inconsistent data and reporting is the overall health of the news magazine industry. Like other media organizations, news magazines have to evolve to keep up with technology and to provide the content their readers want while remaining financially viable.

While this report does not provide specifics to guide other publishers, this study can help publishers by giving them benchmarks. If their internal data is remarkably different – better or worse – than the average, they may need to make adjustments.

As always, we’ll follow the trends and report on who is doing what, what business models and technology publishers are trying, and how they adapt their content, advertising and revenue strategies to remain sustainable.