Magazine Readers Love Their Hard Copy

April 10, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Despite the growing popularity of digital reading, a new survey finds that magazine readers remain loyal to the print versions of their favourite titles. (John Gess/Getty Images)

While the number of Canadians who read electronic books is growing, the same can’t be said for magazine readers.

According to a new survey, magazine readers remain loyal to the print versions of their favourite titles, with fewer than one in ten newsstand customers having purchased an e-edition in the past year.

Seventy-one percent said they prefer to read print magazines rather than electronic editions, citing the portability of magazines, the tactile experience of reading print, and ease of browsing.

“A strong majority of Canadian magazine readers still prefer a physical copy of their magazines over a digital format,” says the survey, conducted by Leger Marketing for Periodical Marketers of Canada (PMC).

Just nine percent of magazine readers reported having bought an electronic edition of a magazine, with 14 percent planning to do so in the next year.

In comparison, books have gained a larger electronic following, with the survey showing that 24 percent of Canadians have bought an e-edition of a book in the past year.

The online survey of 1,583 magazine readers identified women and residents of Quebec as having the strongest preference for print format magazines.

Those who have purchased e-editions of magazines also tend to be heavier print consumers. While 45 percent of all respondents said they have bought a magazine at a newsstand in the past month, 56 percent of those who have bought e-editions have also bought print copies.

Although two of five have reduced their magazine purchases at newsstands in the past three years, most said it was because of economic reasons stemming from the recession, not from a loss of interest in magazines.

However, 14 percent of women and 16 percent of readers between 18 and 34 said they have actually increased their magazine purchases.

“The so-called doomsday scenario that has print magazines doomed to obscurity is just a myth,” says Ray Argyle, executive director of PMC.

“The trend seems to point toward the purchase of single copies and away from mail subscriptions,” he added. “Seventy percent of over-65s have mail subscriptions compared to 45 percent of those under that age, while many in the under-35 group are buying more, not fewer, magazines at the newsstand.”

Three-quarters of respondents said they check the magazine racks when they visit stores selling magazines, especially supermarkets and drugstores.

Women readers, who constitute a majority of supermarket shoppers, also rate as the heaviest magazine consumers with 34 percent saying they buy a magazine once or month or more often, and 55 percent intending to do so in the next month.

Fifty-one percent said they buy magazines for news, politics and public affairs; 47 percent to keep up with trends; 38 percent for homemaking information, and 27 per cent to keep up with news of celebrities.

“This is a landmark study which conclusively demonstrates the ongoing viability of print magazines, particularly the role they play in the retail marketplace,” said John Harrington, editor of the industry newsletter “New Single Copy.”

The release of the survey coincides with a campaign by publishers, distributors, and wholesalers to strengthen retail support for the $600 million a year newsstand magazine industry.