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Spectator Spectacular: overall sales at a 189-year high, print growing at fastest rate since 1989

9 February 2017

12:01 PM

9 February 2017

12:01 PM

  • UK print sales up 10pc in a year – fastest of any UK magazine or newspaper
  • UK newsstand sales up 13pc.
  • Growing popularity of digital/print bundle

Last year, we revealed that The Spectator had broken its previous circulation record and was selling more copies than at any time in its 189-year history. That momentum has kept building and the figures we release today are nothing short of extraordinary: print subscriptions are up 9pc year-on-year. Print circulation is now rising at the fastest rate since 1989. To have sales at a record high is one thing: to have print circulation growing at the fastest rate for almost 30 years is quite another. There are several measures of magazine circulation: print, digital, overseas etc. But let’s look at what is, perhaps, the most straightforward comparison: UK sales. Our 2016 rise is the fastest of any publication, magazine or newspaper.

So what’s going on? Aside from the ever-more-potent magic of The Spectator, I’d put it down to three things.

1) The comeback of print. We are investing more in the artwork and cartoons; and the joys that can only really come from flicking through a magazine that you hold in your hand. For our advertisers, in particular, a slot in one of the best-designed publications in the land means reaching more paying customers than ever before. Even newsstand sales, supposedly the most imperilled part of the magazine industry, rose 13pc last year.

2) A new flight to quality. There’s no end of copy that you can read for free. But if you want writers of the calibre found in The Spectator – Charles Moore, Rod Liddle, Hugo Rifkind, James Forsyth – then nowadays you need to pay for them. And in the era of fake news, where you get your analysis from has never been more important. The Spectator offers the funniest cartoons, the most influential book reviews, cask-strength opinion. And a range of it, too. Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, kindly pointed out the other day that the best criticism of arguments in The Spectator can be found in The Spectator.

3) The right relationship between print and digital. Most new subscribers sign up via the website, the place where they can get to know The Spectator’s articles and sample the wares. And we don’t pursue traffic for its own sake with clickbait stories. We follow the New York Times model: we’re not interested in maximising clicks, but maximising the number of people who think it’s worth paying for our journalism.

And the figures: our print sales figure now stands at 59,950 for the second half of this year – with 7,197 digital-only sales, it rises to 67,147. This is the record high, and stands seven per cent above our previous record. This is the sales figure (i.e. no bulks, frees etc.)

The ABC headline figure factors in all forms of circulation worldwide, including our increasingly successful Spectator Australia edition, copies bought by airlines etc and digital/print bundles. This figure stands at 90,810 – again, the highest figure ever reported. Full details here (pdf).

The digital era poses challenges for the industry, but also – for publications of our size – huge opportunities. The Spectator, established in 1828, has the longest history of any publication – and we’re now a few pages in to the most successful chapter of that history. We at 22 Old Queen St do our best to serve up the best writing that we can – but our success depends on our readers. So from us, to you: thank you. And for those who haven’t joined us, please do so from £1 a week by clicking here.


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