The magazine industry publishes its sales figures today, and we at The Spectator are delighted to announce the largest figure in our 188-year history. And not just because digital sales are doing well: it’s growth on every front. Sales of the print edition of The Spectator are growing at their fastest rate for 15 years. Subscriptions, perhaps our single most important indicator, are up almost six per cent year-on-year. Our web traffic stands at a record high, with an average 1.9 million visitors per month last year, and is rising so fast that our standard monthly figure is now 2.5 million. Many of them are discovering The Spectator for the first time; many of them are getting hooked. And, in this way, the digital era has taken The Spectator to the start of the most successful period in its long history.
Seeing as we’re on Coffee House, let’s start with digital. Here’s our traffic: we had 60.8 million pageviews last year, and 20.5 million unique users.
We have, in Coffee House, Britain’s best political blog. But the website is more than that: it serves as an introduction to The Spectator. We now generate almost a third of our traffic from social media – which has become the new newsstand. Once, you’d decide if you liked The Spectator while thumbing through an edition in a newsagent. Now, people are recommended our journalism by friends and then browse through the spectator.co.uk website to see what they like. If you browse often enough, we ask you to join us and subscribe. And it works. We hit our record during the summer, as I blogged at the time, and in the second half of last year, total sales hit 63,788.
We saw people switching from print to digital – especially those who live abroad and prefer the instant delivery of our superb iPad edition. But this seems to have bottomed out two years ago: now print is recovering, up 5pc year-on-year. And even this sales figure doesn’t show our full reach. When you include issues bought by the more discriminating airlines, and various other forms of circulation, then our ABC certificate for the second half of last year shows a headline figure of 79,819. (You can see the full breakdown here). Of this, the total print figure is 64,484 – and we’ll be one of the few publications in Britain for whom this figure is actually rising.
And even the ABC figure doesn’t include all of what The Spectator now does. Our events division is going from strength to strength: last year the number of events exceeded the number of magazines published. Like the website, our events are an extension of The Spectator and reflect what we’re about: high-quality debate and cask-strength opinions. Most of our events sell out.
Our podcast is often so popular that more people listen to The Spectator than read the magazine. We’ll be doing more of them this year: Jeremy Clarke, our Low Life correspondent, is going to have his own podcast. Our strapline for these podcasts is: ‘Writers worth listening to’.
We at The Spectator have never believed in a tension between print and digital. Our belief is that, if you get the journalism right, all else will follow. And if you produce journalism that is not just better but significantly better than what’s free on the web, people will pay for it. A business model based on subscriptions (rather than pageviews) is the surest guarantor of journalistic quality.
Much is said about the supposed decline of journalism; especially print. Here at The Spectator we’re celebrating a print revival and the start of what is now the most successful period in the magazine’s history. This has only happened because you, our readers and subscribers, have made it happen – so thank you.