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June 18, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:22am

Exclusive ranking: The top 25 most popular US/Canada magazines on Apple News+

By William Turvill

US celebrity magazine People is the most-read magazine brand on Apple News+, figures obtained by Press Gazette show.

In the second half of 2020, the average weekly edition of People had an AN+ circulation of 66,370. In an interview with Press Gazette (see below), People revealed that it expects this figure to top 160,000 in the first half of 2021.

People ranked ahead of other well-known titles including Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, Wired, National Geographic and Time (see full table below).

The Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) figures provide a rare insight into the size of AN+. Apple launched its paid-for version of Apple News in 2019. It has yet to reveal how many customers have bought access to the premium news app.

For $9.99 a month, Apple News+ subscribers get access to hundreds of magazine editions across the US, Canada, UK and Australia. AN+ also features a handful of newspapers (not included in our AAM ranking), including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, the Times and the Sunday Times.

In April, according to Apple Insider, an analyst at investment bank Cowen estimated that AN+ had about 11m paid subscribers in 2020. Press Gazette’s AAM figures suggest this is unlikely. Apple did not respond to request for comment.

[This interview first featured in Press Gazette’s ‘Future of News – US’ newsletter. Click here to sign up and receive this content first.]

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Monday 21 June update: A note about the table/ranking

Above is the AAMs ranking of the top US and Canadian publications on Apple News+. This table was amended after publication to highlight Canadian titles because their AN+ circulation figures are not directly comparable with those of their US peers.

For US magazines, AAM circulations are based on unique opens by AN+ subscribers. For Canadian titles, circulation is measured by the number of AN+ subscribers who follow the publication on the app.

If the four Canadian titles in this table were measured by unique opens, like the US magazines, they would each see their AN+ circulation fall significantly. For example, Canadian House & Homes 54,241 circulation would drop to 13,079.

In future articles on Apple News+, Press Gazette will seek to make a clear distinction between US and Canadian circulations to reflect this difference.

The table was changed further on 21 June after the AAM made amendments to its ranking. This led to a slight change to the AN+ circulations of New York magazine and Men’s Journal, which fell out of the top 25 and was replaced by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. 

[Platform profile: A guide to Apple News+ for publishers]

How People is thriving on Apple News+

At the end of 2020, People stood as the runaway leader of AN+ in North America. Its circulation on the app, 66,370, is more than 15,000 greater than its nearest US rival, Vanity Fair.

And, according to the magazine’s GM for consumer marketing, David Roberson, it is growing fast.

In an interview with Press Gazette to discuss the app, Roberson said that he expects People’s AN+ circulation figure for the first half of this year to be around 2.5 times greater than 66,000. This would take its AN+ circulation to above 160,000.

People, one of the largest magazines in America, recorded a total average circulation of more than 3.4m in the second half of 2020, including digital sales of 257,000 per issue, according to the AAM.

Roberson said that AN+ is “very important” for People, despite the fact it currently only accounts for a small proportion (around 2% in the second half of 2020) of its total circulation.

“It’s exciting for us because it’s a place where a somewhat younger consumer comes to find us,” he said. “They appear to be a younger, a little bit more educated, slightly more diverse audience.”

Roberson added that he is not concerned about losing large numbers of People subscribers to AN+ packages.

“We’ve been very careful, and do analytical work with the support of Apple, to make sure that we’re not driving cannibalisation,” he said. “Because we have a robust and quite profitable subscriber relationship with millions of women.

“So, is there cannibalisation? Absolutely. But it is infinitesimally small.

“We actually are going through that analysis semi-annually with Apple to make sure that we’re highlighting extremely small fractions of percentages.”

The amount that magazines like People are paid by Apple depends on engagement with content and reading time.

Roberson said: “We have been told that our content, relative certainly to the competitive set of other celebrity products, has not just more unique issue opens, but also has longer reader time, or the term they use is ‘dwell time’.”

[This interview first featured in Press Gazette's 'Future of News – US' newsletter. Click here to sign up and receive this content first.]

Photo credit: Hadrian/ Shutterstock

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