Coffee House

The Spectator: the world’s best bargain

16 August 2012

The Spectator’s sales figures are out today, with digital sales included for the first time. I’m pleased to report that, in a pretty murderous market, our sales are still rising — and, thanks to our new digital readers, rising at the fastest rate in ten years. The red line shows our print sales. It’s not exactly boom times for the printed word. Some publications have resigned themselves to terminal print decline, and have switched their focus entirely to digital. That’s not the way we see it at The Spectator, the oldest magazine in the English language. We love the printed magazine, which is why two years ago, we refreshed its design. Since then, print sales have stabilised, and even grown in the first half of this year. Not by much, perhaps, but any upwards direction is to be welcomed, especially after two price rises (a consequence, alas, of the rising cost of newsprint).

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As the graph shows, our sales growth is being driven by our digital editions. For every 11 Spectator readers, we now have one who never opens the magazine and reads us on Kindle and iPad. Many print subscribers, especially those living overseas, have switched to digital for earlier delivery. The days when digital sales were regarded as somehow inferior to print ones are well and truly over. We have acquired 3,000 new digital readers in the last 18 months. Sadly, I can’t take the credit. My predecessor, Matt d’Ancona, set us up for the digital era. The ever-brilliant Coffee House blog is perhaps the most visible part of his legacy.

As one of our readers observed on Twitter yesterday, The Spectator is the ‘world’s best bargain’ on digital platforms. Our Kindle and iPad formats make the magazine available to a global audience for the first time. We could never afford to ship the magazine to South Korean newsagents, but we’re now on Facebook and we have a Twitter feed allowing anyone who has heard of us to sample the kind of things we have to say. If they like what they read, they can subscribe.

At a time when the digital age is killing off publications just as prestigious as The Spectator, we’re pretty pleased to find that the new technology – and ways of reaching readers – has actually supported magazine sales. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. The Spectator is the best magazine in the world, yet it is read by a relatively small proportion of the world’s population. I aim to correct this anomaly, and will keep you posted on the progress.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • yut

    I live in S Korea – I read this blog daily

  • DGStuart

    Get Peter Hitchens to write more – he’s too seldom in your pages. Too much lefty metro types like Hugo Rifkind and Alex Massie.Good stuff: Taki, Jeremy Clarke, Toby Young, Rod Liddle, Melissa Kite.

  • Drymen

    There is still a light ‘left touch’ to the magazine in places. Suggestions: give a regular column back to Paul Johnson and draw more from the approach of Standpoint!

  • Hallonorn

    I know the attractivly priced digital edition brought me back as a Subscriber after years away.

  • Redneck

    Mr Nelson

    I still enjoy reading “my Spectator” and find some writers very entertaining. I wish it every success.

    However, I do mourn the lack of in-depth, Spectator-quality articles on certain major issues that are clearly of concern to a centre-right audience.
    Allied to that, the focus on minutiae of interpersonal goings-on in Westminster leaves me cold.

  • Magnolia

    We used to subscribe to the Kindle version but I found the thing made my wrist ache and I missed the pictures of the print copy, so we gave that up. I now buy the print copy occasionally when it looks interesting but it is pricey and I often put it back on the shelf without a purchase. My spouse loves the Kindle but reads different material to me so each to their own. We used to subscribe to the print copy but that got chopped along with every other discretionary direct debit when our public sector pension was raided. Fear you see. I find the Spectator is getting less interesting as it pushes towards a more global audience. The BBC make this mistake as well with their current affairs and news and even the Con Home site now keeps pushing all the USA politics at us. The effect of all this global reach out is to make the material less interesting to each individual because of the dilution of geographical familiarity with distrance. Events on the other side of the world may be relevant but they will also be more dull because they are so far away from one’s own little world.

  • Arik Yacobi

    Been a digital subscriber for well over a year – love it and can’t wait until Wednesday evening when the latest edition downloads! (Usually!)

  • UlyssesReturns

    How many times have you counted tellytubby?

  • Tom

    Are you double-counting the digital readers? If people reading digitally-exclusively account for 9% of total readership, and you’ve put on 3,000 digital readers in 18 months, then surely your total readership figure should be closer to 59k?

    • Fraser Nelson

      the graph is for sales, not readers, so if some people like us enough to buy us twice (it does happen!) then that would be reflected in the chart.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Credit is due to your promo dept for the hard copy versions. I know of one subscription that was fuelled by the wife’s lust for the free champagne offer

    • Fraser Nelson

      yes, the booze offers always go down well!

  • Mr. Bubbles

    Good to hear.

    There’s something about having a physical copy, though. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I can’t see myself ever opting for a digital subscription over the print edition (well, as long as you retain Rod Liddle, Jeremy Clarke, Toby Young, and the politics column at any rate; they’re the main reasons I maintain my subscription).

  • Jupiter

    What caused the big drop in sales in H1 2009?

    • Factotum

      I would imagine that’s when subscriptions expired for yearly and half year customers, and given the recession and tight budgets, they decided not to renew.

    • Fraser Nelson

      Our decision to pull lower-yielding, cut-price and loss-making subscriptions and put the money saved towards digital development.

  • Nicholas

    It’s all those left-wing readers from the Guardian. “Publishing for the post-democratic age”.

  • Coffeehousewall

    Congratulations. It is always important to keep people reading and thinking.

    I did offer to advertise the Spectator on the other wall but no-one took me up on it.

    • Halcyondaze2

      I’m sorry but I think the Spectator has gone drastically downhill and I’m sure I’m not the only one. You lost Melanie Phillips and replaced her with a bunch of starry-eyed obsessives who’d be better off writing for the Guardian. You seldom go near any of the issues that really matter (a bit like the government really), most of your articles are thinly-veiled pro-Cameroonian spin and writers like Isabel Hardman and Forsyth are just exasperating metropolitan toadies. If I’m the only one that feels this way then I will retreat graciously. But I suspect I’m not. Perhaps there are more readers in the soft and comfy centre ground.

      • Mirtha Tidville

        No you are not alone..Bang on the button in fact sir

      • Nicholas

        Thirded. Left of centre is the new right of centre. Right of centre is now “far right” and the people hire Nazi fancy dress. I would have once expected the Spectator to lead against that shift but instead they are part of it.

      • Frank P


      • Malfleur

        “You lost Melanie Phillips” Not to mention Paul Johnson and Mark Steyn

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