Digital magazine sales still tiny overall, but titles like Reader’s Digest see huge growth

Nearly 65 percent of U.S. magazines now have a digital replica edition, but those editions make up just under three percent of overall circulation: That’s the latest news from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), which on Thursday released its report on U.S. magazine circulation in the second half of 2012. For some individual titles, digital growth was a lot more impressive — though in some cases that’s because they’re giving away the digital edition free.
289 U.S. magazines reported that they’d sold 7.9 million digital replica editions in the last six months of 2012. That’s 2.4 percent of total circulation — up from less than 1 percent in the second half of 2011, and up from 1.7 percent in the first six months of this year. (AAM’s definition of a digital replica is that it contains “the same editorial and photojournalism as the national print edition,” though that material can be arranged differently on a tablet; nearly all digital magazines fall into this category.)
The growth looks more impressive on an individual title level, where some magazines made huge gains in digital copies: Game Informer, already by far the top magazine by digital circulation, increased that figure by 89 percent, while Cosmopolitan upped its digital circulation by nearly 40 percent in the second half of the year. Two Reader’s Digest titles — Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home — saw triple-digit-percentage growth of their digital editions, both entering the top 10 for the first time. The growth isn’t all paid: Reader’s Digest, for example, is offering print subscribers a free six-month iPad (s AAPL) subscription. But Hearst sells digital and print subscriptions separately.
Here are the top 25 U.S. consumer magazines by digital circulation as of December 31, 2012, and how much that circulation grew (or shrank) over the first six months of the year. The Alliance for Audited Media cautions that these are preliminary figures, subject to audit.

  1. Game Informer (GameStop), digital circulation: 2,305,816 (+89% over first half of 2012)
  2. Maxim (Alpha Media Group): 259,529 (-8.9%)
  3. Cosmopolitan (Hearst): 254,751 (+37.2%)
  4. National Geographic (National Geographic): 160,077 (+18.9%)
  5. Poder Hispanic (Televisa): 149,838 (-12.3%)
  6. Reader’s Digest (Reader’s Digest): 147,149 (+248.8%)
  7. Taste of Home (Reader’s Digest): 103,961 (+243.9%)
  8. Popular Science (Bonnier): 98,389 (+5.8%)
  9. ESPN the Magazine (ESPN): 92,197 (+20.4%)
  10. OK! (American Media): 88,347 (+86.7%)
  11. Parenting (Bonnier): 87,253 (+16.7%)
  12. Men’s Health (Rodale): 85,842 (+44.2%)
  13. O, the Oprah Magazine (Hearst): 84,632 (+4.2%)
  14. Wired (Condé Nast): 84,118 (+22.3%)
  15. Us Weekly (Wenner Media): 81,611 (+40.8%)
  16. Nylon (Jaclynn B. Jarrett): 77,469 (+2.5%)
  17. GQ (Condé Nast): 74,806  (+24.6%)
  18. Food Network Magazine (Hearst): 67,727 (+65.1%)
  19. Women’s Health (Rodale): 66,555 (+29.5%)
  20. Star (American Media): 59,903 (+297%)
  21. New Yorker (Condé Nast): 59,471 (+66.7%)
  22. Esquire (Condé Nast Hearst): 57,795 (+41.7%)
  23. Martha Stewart Living (Time Inc. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia): 56,068 (+28.7%)
  24. Glamour (Condé Nast): 53,794 (+56.8%)
  25. Vanity Fair (Condé Nast): 53,735 (+47.6%)