In many of the industries L2 examines, the exact size of the addressable market is often unknown or subject to broad estimation. This is not true of the magazine industry. Thanks to data collected by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), both subscription circulation and single issue retail sales is available for nearly every newsstand publication. Both publishers and advertisers have become accustomed to reliable metrics in the print world, which makes the lack of equivalent metrics in the digital world frustrating.

When it comes to the social media presence of leading magazine brands, a common question arises: what’s a good number on Facebook? Is it the size of the fan base? Growth rate? Interaction rate? While all of these metrics are critical to gauge the success of a social media campaign, the ABC data referenced above opens the door to an industry-specific metric that yields interesting results.

Magazines have a quantifiable audience in the form of their established readership offline. Looking at the ratio of Facebook fans to total circulation, we get a proxy for how much of this built-in audience each brand is effectively converting to its growing online community. And more often than not, magazine brands appear to be underperforming.

Collectively, the 87 brands featured in the Digital IQ Index: Magazines boast a total circulation exceeding 140 million versus a Facebook fan base of only 22 million. Only 13 publications have established a ratio of fans to readers that exceeds 25%. (These include Playboy, Vogue, The Economist, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Runner’s World, Cosmopolitan, People, Wired, New Yorker, Elle, Brides, and Us Weekly)

Why is a higher ratio desirable? Simple. Brands with a higher ratio of fans to readers will be better positioned to:

  1. Convince advertisers to sponsor links or custom tabs on Facebook
  2. Sell subscriptions and/or renewals via F-commerce
  3. Promote ongoing changes to its mobile offering
  4. Transition to new modes of digital distribution

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