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February 21, 2024

ABCs: UK digital magazine sales surge boosted by Spotify-style bundled subscriptions

UK magazine titles report surge in access to digital editions according to ABC.

By Dominic Ponsford

Digital sales of UK magazines rose 15.4% year on year to an average of 2.6 million per edition, according to Press Gazette research based the latest ABC figures.

Some 147 titles published digital edition ABC figures for 2023. This data includes paywalled apps like The Economist and PDF-style digital versions of print titles.

The Economist remains the biggest title overall with global digital edition sales of 966,947 (down 2.3% year on year). However it should be noted this figure includes print subscribers who get the digital edition added on as there is no option to subscribe just to the print edition of The Economist. According to The Economist’s annual report, it has 697,000 digital-only subscribers, which puts it 13th on Press Gazette’s ranking of the top paywalled newsbrands globally.

Digital edition sales appear to have been significantly inflated by “all you can read” sales – i.e. readers purchasing access to titles via third-party bundled magazine offerings such as Readly.

BBC Science Focus magazine boasts 105,456 all you can read subscriptions out of its 107,646 digital sales total. Car magazine has 57,725 all you can read sales out of 60,201, and for Grazia 47,031 out of 48,238 digital edition sales are all you can read.

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Overall, these all you can read sales account for 1.2 million of the total 2.6 million average digital circulation per edition, up from 860,000 last year, and so appear to collectively account for the market growth.

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Publishers are not paid a full subscription price for these sales but instead get a royalty fee based on a Spotify-style model (likely to be a small fraction of the subscription price).

Readly charges £9.99 per month for access to more than 7,000 magazines and newspapers, giving publishers a share of that revenue dependent on the number of times their content is accessed. There are a number of these Spotify-style services for magazines, but ABC does not specify which platform is being used.

Not all titles are available via Spotify-style subscriptions to multiple titles. The Economist, for example, does not have any “all you can read” sales.

Seven titles which formerly published digital editions are no longer audited by ABC including Sight and Sound and Real Homes. See table below for full details of UK magazine industry digital edition sales in 2023. Note: Not all magazines are audited by ABC.

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