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Digital audiences are larger than print for many business publications

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Several business publications are among those magazine brands whose digital audiences have surpassed their print audiences, according to a recent study. Affinity's “American Magazine Study,” which was released in December, measured the audiences of 175 magazine brands, with 15 publications generating larger digital audiences than print audiences. These 15 media brands include such top business titles as Barrons, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune and Harvard Business Review. Among business titles, there were significant differences in the gap between the size of their digital audiences and the size of their print audiences, according to the study.

For example, Barron's has a total digital audience of 1.5 million, compared with a print audience of 1.2 million, while Harvard Business Review has a digital audience of 852,000 anda print audience of 849,000, the study found.

However, Forbes has a digital audience of 12.2 million and a print audience of 5.7 million, while rival Fortune has a total digital audience of 14.3 million and a total print audience of 4.2 million, according to Affinity. (Website audience estimates for Fortune reflect combined delivery of CNNMoney.com, Fortune and Money.) Affinity, which tracks the media habits of more than 60,000 consumers annually, reported on the total magazine brand footprint across print, mobile and social platforms. It also integrates magazine website data from comScore's Media Metrix. “After the spring wave of numbers, you're just going to see more and more [audiences shifting to digital over print], as the digital side grows,” said Tom Robinson, managing director of Affinity, which starting this year is publishing magazine audience data on a quarterly basis due to the speed of change observed in audience behavior. Paul Rossi, managing director and exec VP-Americas for the Economist Group, said that he did not see digital audiences outpacing print ones as a zero-sum game. “What we're seeing with digital is—yes there's this migration to digital—but also we're bringing new people into the brand through sampling through [The Economist's free] app and allowing people to instantly access” the brand, he said. According to the Affinity study, The Economist now has a total digital audience of 3,142,000, compared with a total print audience of 3,062,000. Digital-only subscriptions for The Economist on tablets, e-readers and the Web continue to surge. By the end of 2011, the publication had reached 100,000 digital-only subscribers—more than double the number of digital-only subscriptions it had in 2010. The Economist's global print circulation, currently at 1.4 million, is expected to grow about 2% this year while the media brand's digital audience is expected to grow 10%, Rossi said. “It's still about trying to get you to subscribe to The Economist, whether in print or in digital,” Rossi said, adding that the brand is in the process of beefing up its existing app and plans to launch additional ones that are device-specific. “What we find increasingly is that to engage with you, we're spending more money on digital marketing, so we're finding you on websites, Twitter and, increasingly, through apps and mobile devices.” According to the Affinity study, Fortune has a total digital audience of 14.3 million and a total print audience of 4.2 million. (Website audience estimates for Fortune reflect combined delivery of CNNMoney.com, Fortune and Money.) “I don't really look at it as 14 million and 4 million, but as 18 million [total audience] that we can grow organically and to the appropriate scale,” said Jed Hartman, group publisher of Fortune and CNNMoney. “[Our] audience-development strategy is applying your brand and DNA to wherever potential users are, so folks can engage with your content however they choose.”

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