The 10-Year View: UK Magazine Sales Hit Another Low

*ABC* data is out today for UK autumn and winter magazine sales. The industry’s Periodical Publishers’ Association (PPA) optimistically sees “a continuing improvement in the demand” – but our research shows that’s not the whole story

When you crunch latest numbers along with those from the last decade, as I have done, you see that actual sales of the most popular 100 magazines have fallen precipitously. At 48.3 million, 2010 full-year sales were 14.8 million fewer than at their 2001 peak.

Instead of sales, the PPA is focusing on circulation, which actually rose by four percent between July and December compared with the previous year.

Circulation can rise because publishers give away bulk copies, freebies and so on. Some publishers have started packaging a second magazine together with a related title.

That means advertisers are reaching more eyeballs. But it doesn’t mean people are necessarily buying more magazines.

Economist rises

The Economist bucked the trend by growing its half-year UK sales 11 percent to 210,204 over the year.

Speaking with paidContent:UK, UK publisher Yvon Ossman credited growing interest in recent Egypt and Middle East politics: “People are interested in global events and want to try and understand that. The Economist provides thoughtprovking analysis without a sensational point of view. Newspapers compete in that 24-hour news cycle; we don’t.”

Ossman said The Economist‘s free iPad app, which gives a limited number of articles and invites users to become subscribers, has been downloaded over a million times in its first three months. She did not detail how many downloaders have become subscribers.

BBCWW sites

BBC Worldwide turned in higher traffic for ABC… 3.7m uniques (more than doubled), 3.9m uniques, 1.5m unique users 67.5% up).