The Spectator’s sales figures are out today, with digital sales included for the first time. I’m pleased to report that, in a pretty murderous market, our sales are still rising — and, thanks to our new digital readers, rising at the fastest rate in ten years. The red line shows our print sales. It’s not exactly boom times for the printed word. Some publications have resigned themselves to terminal print decline, and have switched their focus entirely to digital. That’s not the way we see it at The Spectator, the oldest magazine in the English language. We love the printed magazine, which is why two years ago, we refreshed its design. Since then, print sales have stabilised, and even grown in the first half of this year. Not by much, perhaps, but any upwards direction is to be welcomed, especially after two price rises (a consequence, alas, of the rising cost of newsprint).
As the graph shows, our sales growth is being driven by our digital editions. For every 11 Spectator readers, we now have one who never opens the magazine and reads us on Kindle and iPad. Many print subscribers, especially those living overseas, have switched to digital for earlier delivery. The days when digital sales were regarded as somehow inferior to print ones are well and truly over. We have acquired 3,000 new digital readers in the last 18 months. Sadly, I can’t take the credit. My predecessor, Matt d’Ancona, set us up for the digital era. The ever-brilliant Coffee House blog is perhaps the most visible part of his legacy.
As one of our readers observed on Twitter yesterday, The Spectator is the ‘world’s best bargain’ on digital platforms. Our Kindle and iPad formats make the magazine available to a global audience for the first time. We could never afford to ship the magazine to South Korean newsagents, but we’re now on Facebook and we have a Twitter feed allowing anyone who has heard of us to sample the kind of things we have to say. If they like what they read, they can subscribe.
At a time when the digital age is killing off publications just as prestigious as The Spectator, we’re pretty pleased to find that the new technology – and ways of reaching readers – has actually supported magazine sales. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. The Spectator is the best magazine in the world, yet it is read by a relatively small proportion of the world’s population. I aim to correct this anomaly, and will keep you posted on the progress.