Sales figures for UK magazines are published today and The Spectator is delighted to announce the biggest increase in its 192-year history. The bet we made returning the furlough money last summer has paid off.
When we packed up for lockdown last year, we feared the worst and furloughed staff. But we found the demand for our journalism had only increased. We were badly hit (newsagent sales and events especially) but saw we had a way out. In 2019, we sold an average 80,455 copies globally. We set a goal of hitting 100,000 (which would mean overtaking the weekday sales of two newspapers). We returned the furlough money to the taxpayer, and asked people who liked our journalism to pay for it.
I’m delighted to announce that this goal has now been met. Our sales certificate today shows the average sale for last year was 98,486 weekly copies (including paying triallists), up from 80,455 on average the year before – so a 22 per cent increase.
Include newsagent sales, and we’re now over 100,000. But we’re focusing, now, on subscriptions: and on that measure, we will soon be welcoming our 100,000th subscriber – to whom we’re offering a year's supply of Pol Roger champagne. (If you’re already a subscriber, you can enter our competition to win a year’s supply here.) After ten years with a tiny team, we’re now expanding – mindful of how many new subscribers came to us via our podcasts, newsletters or our website. We want to make all of them better than ever.
Aside from sales of the magazine, many other milestones have been passed:-
- Spectator TV, launched during lockdown, now has 97,000 subscribers with five million episode views already.
- Our website had 106 million pageviews last year, a rise of 48 per cent over 2019. And that’s with a paywall.
- Podcast downloads averaged more than 1.3 million a month in the second half of last year, up 20 per cent on the year before.
- Isabel Hardman’s Evening Blend has over 121,000 subscribers, up 60 per cent on last year – it’s the UK’s most-read politics email.
- Kate Andrews has launched The Spectator’s Lunchtime Briefing carrying information about coronavirus as well as major world political and economic events. It has 108,000 subscribers and an open rate of 47 per cent – the highest of any comparable email on either side of the Atlantic.
When I became editor in 2009, it was said that digital would kill print. That no one would pay to read journalism when so much was free. In our case, digital has not just saved print but grown print sales of the magazine to an extent that would have been unthinkable had we not been able to reach our new readers via podcasts, our website and – now – Spectator TV. When people sign up for a trial subscription, the vast majority choose a print-and-digital package and stick with it. Nothing beats the beauty of a print magazine.
The Spectator last year became the first magazine in history to publish a 10,000th edition. Ours is the longest story of any weekly (with a book released to mark it) and together, we’re now midway through a new chapter. We’re becoming a daily – hourly – publication and have big plans for the future. The quality of our twice-daily emails means that a Spectator subscription will keep you up-to-date every day. Paradoxically, the expansion of the ever-more-polarised digital world is now driving people to take out subscriptions. With so much at stake, where you get your news and analysis from has never been more important.
The Spectator’s success is unusual in a magazine market that has fallen 50 per cent over the last decade. That success is down to you, our subscribers. So: thank you. And stay with us! We have a lot more history to make.
P.S. The Spectator today becomes the only publication to offer full, 20-year transparency on its sales figures (link here). We do not count triallists, frees, bulks etc although we do publish the figures for transparency.