Readers vote with their feet as New Statesman slides

The news and current affairs sector again broke ranks with a generally gloomy ABC round, registering an overall rise of 10.5 per cent.

There was one clear exception: a 12.6 per cent year-on-year decline at the New Statesman, which was preceded a day earlier by the departure of editor John Kampfner.

No one at the New Statesman would confirm that the two were linked, and acting editor Sue Matthias brushed aside the decline. The title’s change in marketing tactics means it is not comparing itself with rivals, said Matthias, who argued that the New Statesman now followed a ‘different model’to some of its competitors in terms of marketing and circulation.

‘At the New Statesman, we’re trying to move to a more sustainable approach to marketing,’she said. ‘We’d rather put our resources into improving our offer to the reader, and marketing our title to those who really value us, online as well as offline.”

John Kelly, publisher of Prospect, has been using similar tactics on his title – and seen an increase of 20.2 per cent year on year to 26,767, which is the biggest rise in the sector. ‘What we did – which is something everyone in the newspaper industry should wake up to – is we decided to focus on trying to get people who really want to buy your magazine.

‘Anything more than 20 to 30 per cent off as an introductory offer is a passport to disaster in the long run, because you’re attracting readers that aren’t loyal to your product.”

Kelly said that his monthly title offered an independent political view. A possible reason for the New Statesman decline was the current disenchantment with New Labour, he said. ‘We’re not that thrilled with New Labour and Gordon Brown,’he added. ‘I think the editorial quality [of the New Statesman] is fantastic, but if your colours are so clearly nailed to the New Labour mast, it possibly reflects the fact that people don’t want anything that’s overly political.”

Elsewhere, The Spectator saw its 11th consecutive rise in circulation – up five per cent year on year to 75,634, with newsstand sales period on period up 13 per cent. Paul Woolfenden, general manager of publisher Press Holdings Media, credited editor Matthew D’Ancona with the title’s success. D’Ancona this year expanded his team of writers, with the addition of Sunday Telegraph deputy political editor Melissa Kite and former Blur band member Alex James.

The rise in popularity of news magazines overall could be explained by the changing political landscape. The departure of Tony Blair, the resurgence of the Conservatives under David Cameron, and the interest generated by the American elections may have all boosted readership. He said: ‘It’s been an interesting time and will be for the next couple of years.”

The other success in the sector was Dennis’s news digest The Week, which has seen successive circulation increases since its launch in 1995. Its circulation has grown by 7.7 per cent year on year to 145,197. The Economist, meanwhile, has a global circulation of 1,306,939, and its UK edition was up 6.7 per cent year on year to 181,374.

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