Waiting to See on Digital Circulation Rates

[responsive]deaddigital[/responsive]Is the growth of digital magazines really slowing down across the board, or are there other factors in play here? That’s the question posted by D. B. Hebbard in Talking New Media, who notes that the data from AAM is “vital, reliable, but it is not the whole picture.”

“A look at the last reports, dated June 2014, showed that several big name consumer magazines saw their digital circulations actually fall. Why? The answers are complex and vary from title to title,” Hebbard asserts.

“One major magazine had serious app problems last year. That title’s digital circulation fell from just over 7 percent of the total, to 4 percent – was it because of the app? Who knows, which is why I’m not naming the magazine, I simply don’t know,” he continues.

Some magazines, like Canadian Living, are growing digital circulation figures while also upping their print subscriptions. Overall, though, Hebbard notes that many publishers are backing away from their heavy emphasis on digital replica mags as a “major sales point of emphasis.”

“Instead, they are looking at their websites and other mediums to boost total brand audience,” Hebbard says.

Our industry has such a wide variance in how brands use print and digital – from the print-only to the digital-only and every combination in between – that trying to define the rise or demise of digital magazines is sketchy at best.

Still, if we continue to see digital circulations slip for big name magazines the way they did last spring, we can begin to draw some conclusions. If a well-heeled magazine media brand, with all the resources they have to innovate on the digital platform, can’t make a go of their digital editions then what does that say about the level of consumer acceptance of the medium?

Like Hebbard, we are curious to learn what the reports will yield this spring. Some are bullish, as Hebbard notes.

“The assumption, based on industry information being disseminated, is that the new statements will show tremendous growth, as one organization has promoting that the gross audience for magazine brands has been growing at a pace that dwarfs Apple, Facebook and all other tech brands on the planet,” he writes.

We’ll join Hebbard in his wait and see attitude.