The American Magazine Study, run by the independent research firm Affinity, questions 60,000 US consumers annually; recently it has started asking about the different media used to consume magazines. The answers are intriguing for everyone working with branded content.
The first finding is that almost 187 million US consumers are now reading magazines in either print or digital form; this figure represents an increase of just over two million readers on the results for the same survey conducted last spring.
It's probably too early to say exactly why the number of magazine readers is increasing, but it does seem likely that this is down to the fact that people are simply able to access magazine content in so many more ways than just through print. The biggest readership gains by channel were via social networks, where the figure of 30 million consumers accessing magazine content through social media is up 5.7% on last year, and via mobile devices (including tablets and e-readers), where a readership of 35 million consumers equates to a 6.2% annual increase.
The second significant finding is that almost half of all magazine readers (48%) now access their favourite magazine brands in both print and digital formats, reading on average just over eight publications every month. Those trumpeting the death of print, go and sit in the corner; 95% of magazine readers still access printed editions, so the emerging picture is one where people buy a print magazine, but also access that same magazine's website or app.
However, it must be said that when consumers access magazines digitally they are determined to get the most out of the experience, and are highly engaged with the medium. The study found that: 52% of digital magazine readers have clicked on links offering more information about a topic; 38% have watched a magazine-sponsored video; and 36% confirmed that they had clicked links within advertisements. A separate study carried out by Affinity for MPA (The Association of Magazine Media, formerly Magazine Publishers of America) questioned owners of tablets and e-readers who had also downloaded magazine apps: we are all familiar with the concept of new owners downloading dozens of apps that they subsequently never use (I plead guilty, for one), but the study found that magazine apps have an enduring appeal, with 66% of respondents planning to download more magazine apps, and 63% wanting more of their favourite magazine brands to be digitally available. Almost all (90%) of these tablet and e-reader owners said their consumption of magazine content was at least the same if not higher following the purchase of their mobile device.
These are early days, and we'll get a better idea of what's going on in the magazine market as this study and other research efforts start to generate clear trends during 2012; but what seems clear even now is that the proliferation of digital media is benefiting magazine publishing, not hindering it. Whether delivered via print or pixels, magazines are one of the best-loved and most-accessed publishing platforms. Owners of branded content, take note!