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Perfect blend of print, digital and podcasts take The Spectator’s sales to a new record

15 August 2019

12:00 PM

15 August 2019

12:00 PM

Sales figures for the UK magazine industry are out today, and we’re delighted to announce that The Spectator’s sales rose 9pc year-on-year to hit another all-time high: 77,889 for the first half of this year. At a time when magazine sales are falling in general, such growth is rare. It’s bring driven by print: our print subscriptions are growing at their fastest rate since 1995, but recruiting and new readers through digital means and serving them in more ways than ever. We hear a lot about the decline of print, or even ‘subscription fatigue’, so ours is an unusual story. And one that I’d like to tell you about in more detail.

The Spectator is, most importantly, Britain’s best-written and most influential magazine. It brings together the country’s best writers: Rod Liddle, Lionel Shriver, Charles Moore, Matthew Parris, James Forsyth, Isabel Hardman, Nick Cohen, Katy Balls – and more. Our readers seek elegance of expression and originality of argument but, most importantly, diversity of opinion. They like well-written articles with which they might disagree.

But for our subscribers, now, The Spectator is now more besides. It’s a daily podcast, where our political team give you the inside story every day. It’s the live comment on Coffee House: if a big story breaks, we’ll have three differing views on it published within hours. A Spectator subscription offers email bulletins, which twice a day tell you all you need to know about what’s happening (and a daily cartoon). A Spectator subscription brings stream of invitations to hear from politicians, philosophers and cricketers. And a chance, at these events, to meet other subscribers: the best-read, best humoured bunch of people in the world.

A typical new subscriber will today come to the magazine after reading our articles online (we have two million visitors to our website per month), receiving our  daily email,  or listening to one of our six podcasts. They may have attended one of our events (we’re soon hosting an evening with Robert Harris). Then they take a trial subscription: when they do, they prefer to have the print magazine delivered. Over the last year, our sales have grown far faster than any similar magazine.

We can today announce that Spectator Radio, our podcasts channel, surpassed a million monthly listens in the first half of this year, and is now a major source of subscription growth. People who might not have picked up our magazine (or any other) may listen to a podcast, like what they hear and then accept our (frequent) invitations for a free trial. Two-thirds of trialists convert to a full subscription. Our flagship daily podcast, Coffee House Shots, has an average listen rate of 102 per cent (that is, the average listener doesn’t just finish the whole thing, but rewinds and listens to some bits again).

The Evening Blend, our daily email set up by Isabel Hardman almost seven years ago, now has more than 70,000 subscribers and an open rate of 39 per cent, making it the UK’s No. 1 politics bulletin. The open rate, like the update, has risen steadily.

When James Forsyth started Coffee House the consensus was that people would not pay for blogs. Now, blogs – or, rather, live comment – bring in half of our online subscribers: it is, to them, The Spectator daily (and now, our iPad users can read it on our app, too). The average subscriber visits our website twice every week and reads, on average, three articles per visit. These figures, not total traffic, are what we regard as the most important. In fact, we’ve stopped collating total traffic figures: our goal is not to maximise clicks, but to maximise people willing to pay for our journalism, which they’re willing to do in record numbers. The magazine’s revenue split is now 88 per cent subscription/newsstand (ie, people paying to read) and 12 per cent advertising. In our industry, that’s a pretty healthy mix. In the UK, our sales have risen faster than any current affairs magazine over the last five years. We now outsell both GQ and Time: ten years ago, both of these magazines sold about three times what we did.

There are barely a dozen journalists in 22 Old Queen Street, but we’re here for one main reason: to serve the greatest readers in the world. Your regular feedback, candour and enthusiasm are the secret behind The Spectator’s expansion, and the reason why the oldest continually published magazine in the world is only just beginning. If you’re a subscriber: thank you. You make us what we are.

And if you’re not, then try us for a month for free. After all, nearly 78,000 readers can’t be wrong!

PS. The Spectator has also updated the way we report sales figures. We still publish through ABC, the industry auditors, but we’ve pulled out of the ABC system where a standard print-and-digital subscription was counted as two subscriptions, under what it calls a ‘bundle’ system. We were never comfortable with this method and never used it ourselves. A list of our circulation reports over the last ten years is here, and ABC data for the last 20 years – on both the new and old method – can be found here. Our thanks to ABC for their help during the switch.


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