August 14, 2014 Last Updated 7:05 am

Latest ABC report gives snapshot of progress of UK magazines in growing digital edition circ

The Economist, Total Film, BBC Top Gear, BBC History, Esquire, GQ and Wired lead the way with digital edition sales

The latest report from the ABC on the paid circulations of UK magazines shows for the first time the combined sales of both print and digital editions. UK magazines, of course, have smaller total readerships than their US counterparts, and the number of titles reporting digital edition circulation remains fairly low.

Thanks to the UK media website PressGazette, I was able to look at the circulation figures in a slightly different way than many would. I was far less interested in growth or declines of readership and looked only at those titles reporting digital editions.

UK-ABC-DE-smThe small snippet of the report I compiled is at right – you have to click (tap) on the graphic to pull up the entire chart (warning, its quite large). The chart is sorted by total circulation and shows not only the number of digital editions each magazine is reporting, but also the percentage of digital to print being attained. This is the number I always find interesting, especially since I have always felt that reaching 10 percent was an important milestone.

TotalFilm-cover-screenThere should be lots of caveats mentioned, however. First, not every magazine is reporting its digital circulation. I noticed, for instance, that Harrods Magazine, which has a native tablet edition, is not reporting any digital circulation. Other magazines are just beginning to report these readers, and many other magazines are not even in this report.

With that in mind, there is still a lot here I find interesting.

Generally speaking, the popular titles that can be compared to their US counterparts are doing about as well with their digital editions. UK versions of Elle and GQ and other similar magazines are reporting around same percentage of digital to print as the US title is. Vanity Fair, as an example, is reporting 8.9 percent digital in the UK with 8,075 sold, while in the US the title is reporting that ten times that number of digital editions are being sold (81,610) but that equals about 6.7 percent of total circulation.

Future plc’s Total Film, which produces a replica edition for its Newsstand app, is currently reporting that over 23 percent of its circulation is now digital – the second highest of any UK magazine reporting (New Scientist, which has a lower circulation, is reporting that nearly 25 percent of its circulation is now digital).

The importance of the new report may simply be that we can now look at these numbers and start to compare them with future reports. Reading too much into the numbers is dangerous, in my opinion. Many will point out that some of the sales figures for digital editions look low – and they are – but there is such a large lag time between launching a digital editions, beginning sales, deciding to report the sales, and finally submitting publisher’s statements and being audited. The wheels in this business spin slowly, much to the frustration (and sometimes delight) of the tech press.

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