Does a supermarket magazine really have more readers than The Sun?

Just when “branded content” is gaining heightened prominence, custom magazine publisher Cedar has announced Tesco Magazine, which it publishes for the supermarket giant, has become the UK’s most-read print publication.

The numbers are contained in the latest National Readership Survey (NRS) report, which shows Tesco Magazine average issue readership grew eight percent to 7.22 million in the year to September 2012, while that for The Sun newspaper’s weekday edition fell by seven percent to 7.08 million.

We have been in a similar place before — Sky Magazine, which was an adjunct of the BSkyB TV servicewas also once the most-read title, before the pay-TV operator ditched the print zine in favour of email, web and mobile customer communication channels.

There are some caveats to this time’s claim, however…

Cedar’s Tesco triumphalism is accurate only when reading NRS’ average readership over the year…

  • Unlike newspapers, Tesco Magazine is published every two months, giving readers a longer opportunity to read each edition in any given period.
  • On the parallel NRS-PADD report, which asks people what they read in the last month alone, The Sun continues to beat Tesco Magazine with 15.8 million readers against just 5.3 million.
  • That NRS-PADD data also puts monthly rival Asda Magazine ahead of Tesco’s.

The average figures also ignore Sun On Sunday‘s 6.05 million readers, which, when combined with weekday readership, still gives The Sun a continuing lead.

Online, it’s a whole different story, too…

  • Whilst Tesco Magazine‘s website claims 161,000 unique monthly visitors, The Sun‘s claims 26.4 million monthly unique browsers (source: ABC).
  • NRS-PADD data, produced by UKOM and Nielsen, also shows The Sun‘s website saw 3.2 million readers in October, while Tesco Magazine‘s clocked 87,000 readers.

What is inarguable, however, is that growing numbers of retail brands are relying on publishing content — both through existing media and under their own brand — to reach consumers, and supermarkets are well-placed to do so in print, given their large footfall.