Digital Publishing
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2020 digital magazine reading trends: “Back issues and foreign titles total 40%”

‘All-you-can-read’ digital magazine app Readly has released its annual report into the trends, habits and insights of readers on its platform for 2020 – a year of profound disruption.

The report covers the platform’s 5,000 titles that are currently available, representing 140,000 individual digital magazine issues. Over the course of 2020, 99 million digital magazine issues were accessed on the platform, with the average subscriber reading 13 magazines a month.

Although the findings are specific to the $9.99 (£7.99)/month app, the report provides some strong insights into the habits of digital magazine readers globally. 

Here, we round up the most interesting findings:

Key reading habits, at a glance

  • Overall reading time per user is on average 7 hours per month, or around 20 minutes per session.
  • Back issue reading continues to increase, constituting almost 20 percent of all titles read during 2020.
  • The average number of magazines read per subscriber over the course of a month is 13.
  • The ratio of daily active users remains high with 4 out of 10 monthly active users using the app every day.
  • Foreign titles account for 20 percent of all read magazines among subscribers globally.
  • Several countries unsurprisingly showed spikes in reading times during lockdown months over the past year.

Categories where reading has increased the most during 2020

  • Food and drink (31%)
  • Home & renovation (25%)
  • Interior design & architecture (21%)
  • TV Film & Cinema (19%)
  • Lifestyle (14%)

Ranj Begley, UK Managing Director and Chief Content Officer at Readly, comments, “After a year of lockdowns and much uncertainty, it’s clear to see more people are reading about activities in the home to keep them busy such as DIY, cooking and interior design and hobbies to take up as they seek a source of inspiration, entertainment and education. Our subscribers are (also) reading more foreign titles and back issues this year than before as they access a wider breadth of magazines and newspapers across our portfolio.”

Children’s reading habits evolve

Perhaps not surprisingly during a year when children were far less active than normal, and often confined to their homes, digital reading among children increased by 40 percent in the last year for comic books alone. By comparison, children’s magazines witnessed a 10 percent growth, and teenage magazines an 8 percent growth compared to 2019. The latter, slower growth, figure points to the popularity of social media amongst this age cohort at a time when face-to-face contact was restricted.

Begley adds, “With increasing access to tablets and mobile devices for many children and digital being an integral part of homeschooling, digital reading is becoming an important aspect of children’s education as well as entertainment. Families can (also) read digital magazines together on the platform, sharing and discovering hobbies like nature, gardening, cooking and sewing.”

Most read articles in 2020

This year’s analysis of the most read articles on Readly globally has also shown a clear link to the trends during the pandemic, from the purchase of new pets to the best bread recipes as well as gardening tips and tricks. The articles were:

  • “How to tell what a cat is thinking” from How it Works.
  • “The accidental gardener” from Country Living – UK
  • “Worst dates ever” from Cosmopolitan UK
  • “Your home-guide to sourdough” from BBC Good Food
  • “Modern Manners”, how to deal with nosy neighbours from The Lady

Overall, perhaps the most telling statistics are that back issues and foreign magazines amount to 40 percent of all titles read. This should give confidence to publishers that their back issue catalog is becoming increasingly valuable, whilst international discoverability is clearly a key advantage of being listed on ‘all-you-can-consume’ digital platforms like Readly, Cafeyn, PressReader, and others.