Circulation of Online Genre Magazines

A month ago, I posted Online Genre Magazines: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. At the time, I stated "Based on my experience with online magazines, a top publication like Strange Horizons likely has between 1,000 to 2,000 unique visitors per day. Most other top markets will have 400 to 1000 visitors a day, and obscure markets will have 10 to 100 visitors a day at most."

However, the one weak point with my estimate was I didn't have current access to the website statistics of many online magazines. In response to my call to examine web stats, I received a large number of emails from editors, and a good number of these gave me access to their statistics. While a few were fine with being named, most wanted to stay anonymous. In honor of this I am not naming either the editors or the magazines who provided me with this information.

It appears that my original estimates appear to be correct, aside from being somewhat optimistic. Here are my revised estimates:

  • Top publications like Strange Horizons likely have between 800 and 1,500 unique visitors per day.
  • Most other top markets will have 300 to 800 visitors a day.
  • The majority of obscure markets will have 10 to 80 visitors a day at most, although a few climb into the lower hundreds per day.

Please note that, as I previously mentioned, places like receive far more traffic than this since they focus on being more than a simple online magazine. Basically, the creation of an online community tied in with a genre magazine or publishing company brings many more visitors to a site. But most of these visitors are still not reading the online fiction.

One surprising finding was that the submission guidelines were the most popular pages at almost every magazine whose stats I examined. This means that for the less popular online magazines, the number of visitors who actually read their fiction may be less than the number who visit the site merely to learn how to submit stories.

Finally, not every unique visitor to an online magazine is truly unique. While I was working on this analysis, one print editor contacted me and said many people make the mistake of considering every visitor to an online genre magazine to be a unique visitor who only shows up once a month.

This is absolutely correct. Many visitors to online magazines return multiple times per month, just as a reader of a print magazine like Analog returns to one issue a number of times. So while Strange Horizons may technically have an estimated 30,000 plus visitors per month, many of these visitors return time and again to the site. This means it is unlikely even the biggest online genre magazines have surpassed print genre magazines in readership.

The other surprising finding is that major podcasts like StarShipSofa and Escape Pod have truly astounding levels of listenership, with tens of thousands of downloads per month. This doesn't prove people are listening to an entire show when they download a podcast. But since the act of downloading is a more dedicated act than surfing to a website--and since it would be rare for someone to download the same podcast more than once--I'm inclined to believe many genre podcasts should actually rank among the biggest online genre magazines out there.

I'll leave the comments below open for a bit, so please let me know if you think my analysis is on the mark or not. And if any of the editors I've consulted wish to state their view on all this for the record, feel free to do so.