There are just six hours of 2015 to go – and it has, for The Spectator, been our best year ever. Sales of the magazine broke through their record high this year: more people are buying it now than any time in our 187-year long history. And that’s just if you count magazine sales: if you count the number of people actually reading our website and enjoying our writers, the picture is as above: an astonishing 20 million people reading over 60 million articles this year.
You’ll see a dip a few years back: that’s when we introduced a full paywall. We the changed that to a metered paywall: if you read more than a certain number of magazine pieces per month, we ask you to subscribe. This is working very effectively; piece can go viral, they serve as a taster for what The Spectator offers and readers can explore a bit more. If they like what they see, they can subscribe—from £1 a week—for full access. In this way, digital traffic is now powering growth in print sales.
And also, in 2012, we hired a kid who we’d had in for work experience a couple of years earlier and asked him to head up our digital operation: Sebastian Payne. He is now off to join the FT who’d like him to sprinkle some Spectator magic on their website. We wish him all the best, and thank him for his help in building up the momentum with which we enter the new year.
And we’d like to thank you, our readers: your insistence on top-quality journalism means that our most-read pieces of the year are not some ‘ten reasons why polar bears are going cis-gender’ or similar clickbait guff. They're articles about the relationship between religion and violence, self-censorship on campus, the future of the left, the pernicious 'clean eating' fad and—my personal favourite of the year—our groundbreaking exposé on Kids Company. And our most-read article, read more than two million times? Nick Cohen on the diplomatic battle between Sweden and Saudi Arabia. A brilliant, important and heavyweight piece that stands in the finest traditions of The Spectator.
So, for us, 2015 has been the year which rejected as false the choice between quality writing and the pursuit of high traffic. A few years ago, it was feared that the digital world was destroying print publications – or being lured, by the sirens of American startups, down a vortex of drivel. All I can say is here, at The Spectator, that has not been our experience. We’ve never believed in a tension between print and digital: what matters is the writing, not how people choose to read it. The key is to produce writing which is not just better but significantly better than what people get for free on the web. As we've found, the discerning reader who doesn't have time to waste will pay for consistent quality.
We have great plans for 2016 – of which more later. But I'll sign off with this: if you haven’t subscribed then do become part of our success story and join us while the Christmas offer (unrepeatably good value) still lasts. It’s the best way to ensure a happy and well-informed new year.