Normal people have Christmas and birthdays, but for journalism the release of the ABCs is the day when we get a present – in the case of the New Statesman, official confirmation that we are reaching more readers than ever before.
The magazine circulation is the highest in four decades – at a time when print is allegedly dying, and the liberal press is struggling financially – and our coverage of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump has boosted both web traffic and subscriptions. (We are also making a profit.) At a time when judges are branded “enemies of the people” for suggesting that parliament should have a say on huge constitutional change, and when the US president is declaring that “any bad polls are fake news” it’s clear that more and more people value independent, sceptical journalism which champions progressive values.
Our total print and digital circulation is an average of 34,025 for the year, up from 32,200 the year before. Web traffic topped 4 million monthly uniques and 27 million monthly pageviews immediately after the EU vote – not bad for a small team.
If you’ve visited the site recently, you might have seen our pop-up ads suggesting that you subscribe. Please do – running the kind of in-depth reporting, incisive analysis and high-quality cultural criticism that the NS excels at is only possible with a thriving base of subscribers. Subscription offers start at £12 for 12 issues.
In this week’s magazine, for example, we have a longread by Sophie McBain on the abuse of visas for domestic staff – a “recipe for slavery”, as one charity calls it. Last year, I got the chance to report from both Uganda and inside British prisons; at Christmas Martin Fletcher spent weeks in Zimbabwe charting the last days of Robert Mugabe. Our coverage of the refugee crisis has included features editor Xan Rice’s visit to Lebanon to ask what life is like in a country where one in four people is a refugee, and Sophie McBain’s profile of a family’s trip from Darfur to Hull, which won an Amnesty award. We have profiled Arron Banks, Diane Abbott and have followed the rise of Marine Le Pen. There is no one who writes about Isis and Syria with more insight than our contributing writer Shiraz Maher. We even publish viral pieces about cats.
When I first joined the NS in 2010, we worried that the internet would cannibalise the print magazine – as it turns out, the opposite is true. Print readership has grown along with website traffic, and NewStatesman.com remains an important shop window for our best writing. We know, however, that digital ad rates are lower than print, and in any case, we would always rather be funded directly by our readers. So our focus is firmly on subscriptions over sheer volume of traffic. (Caroline, our former web editor, has a handwritten sign over her desk reading: “Don’t go chasing metrics…” She has yet to sing it to me to the tune of Waterfalls but it’s only a matter of time.)
Despite our focus on quality over quantity, traffic is also buoyant – helped by our expanded team of online writers. Amelia Tait’s piece on the movie that doesn’t exist (and the Redditors who think it does) became our most successful piece of 2016 even though it was published on December 21. The day it went live was one of those times you look at the analytics and just watch them get higher… and higher… and higher. In the end, more than 3 million people read it, just edging it ahead of Laurie Penny on Melania Trump.
In order to continue our success, we’ve made a few changes on the web team. Anoosh Chakelian becomes Senior Writer (read her report from Stoke here) and if there’s a Media Mole that’s made you hoot with laughter recently, chances are she wrote it. Julia Rampen, our Staggers editor, moves to become news editor and from 13 February we’re integrating Staggers and general commissioning. We’ve just hired a social media producer, Pauline Bock, who has turned out to be a stylish writer on the French elections too.
We’ll also be developing our existing multimedia formats: Stephen Bush’s Morning Call email is well-read around Westminster and beyond and we plan to make that even more jazzy this year. There are now three New Statesman podcasts: the main one, SRLSY (on pop culture) and Skylines from Citymetric. Anna and Caroline have branched out into SRSLY quizzes, on subjects including Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter. (The next is on 14 March.)
If there’s anything else you’d like to see the New Statesman doing, drop me an email (firstname at newstatesman.co.uk) or tweet me: @helenlewis.