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Why do some magazines sell well? Maybe they don’t worry about the web

Print sales of Private Eye and The Oldie are booming. Could the reason be their lack of digital presence?

Magazine sales in Britain went down a mere 1.4% year-on-year over the last six months of 2011 (according to the industry’s number crunchers). ABC sales of daily newspapers, by comparison, dropped 6.9%. So there’s something about magazines – weekly, fortnightly, monthly – that seems to shield them from the worst of the economic and digital permafrost.

Which is odd, especially when you hear so much about natural transitions to iPads and assorted tablets. If that’s spot on, then magazines ought to be diving fast, but in fact some areas – like teenage lifestyle and women’s slimming (up 28% and 6.8% respectively) are booming away. Of course some brands (not OK!, Mr Desmond – down 14%) are wilting, and some individual titles may have hit choppier waters. But there’s every reason to pause and salute Private Eye, up 10% to nearly 230,000, its best figure for 25 years, as well as The Oldie (up 6.4%) and The Week (up 3.9%). None of them have knockout websites; indeed the Eye barely twitches an eyelid.

And the question, as the Economist stalls a little after years of dynamic growth, is simple, inevitable and utterly unfathomable. Is it the titles that (unlike the Economist these past few months) have done least to ride the digital wave who are now cresting home in triumph looking pretty clever? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds