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February 21, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:03am

UK magazine digital edition sales surge in 2021 with Economist out in front

By Andrew Kersley

The Economist retained its spot as the UK magazine with the largest digital edition circulation, reaching nearly one million subscribers in 2021, according to the latest ABC report.

The newest data suggests the magazine is now just under 5,000 digital subscriptions away from the one million total after recording a 14%  increase in global digital circulation last year, from 874,802 to 995,228.

The title account for nearly half of all digital magazine subscriptions audited by ABC in the UK.

The Economist was an early adopter of digital subscriptions, introducing paywalls that prevented non-subscribers from accessing its archived editorial content in 2009. It reports in its latest ABC audit that its entire digital circulation was made up of paid subscribers.

The title with the next highest digital edition sales in 2021, according to ABC, was Time Magazine’s EMEA editon with an average of 37,741 sales per week.

Digital circulation as recorded by the ABCs refers to digital magazine editions accessed as PDFs or via apps.

Some outlets, like The Economist, include digital versions of their print editions as standard with all digital subscriptions. Others only offer digital editions of the print version as an option or shifted to digital-only or a short period during the pandemic.

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Overall digital edition sales at magazine publications currently audited by ABC grew by 20% from 1,783,146 in 2020 to 2,138,471 in 2021.

Political magazine The Spectator (excluding Australia) saw a 33% increase in paid digital circulation, moving from 23,681 in 2020 to 31,490 last year. That goes alongside a 13% increase in its UK and RoI print circulation also recorded in the latest ABC figures.

The Week reported an 8% drop in its digital circulation in 2021, the only outlet to lose digital edition sales in the top 20.

Chart below lists total paid-for digital edition sales per title for 2021 and 2020 according to ABC. In most cases all digital edition sales are paid-for.


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