As Readers Flee, Papers Ask Those Left To Pay More

What’s wrong with this picture? Here’s proof that newspaper economics no longer made sense even earlier this decade (and it was probably also the case going much farther back than that). Since then, UK daily papers’ circulation has been steadily dropping, and the titles have been asking a diminishing number of readers to cough up more and more of their pennies.

Newspapers total circulation 2001-9

We sifted through eight years of available cover-price and ABC-circulation data for the weekday editions of The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star

The average cover price rose 28.2 percent from £0.51 in 2001 to £0.71 for the first seven months of 2009. At the same time, the total annual circulation of the 10 dailies fell 19.11 percent. That’s a perverse correlation, but papers have little choice in the face of falling evaporating custom and falling ad sales.

Consider the advertising revenues newspapers have lost to online competitors, in the middle of a recession no less, and it’s not hard to see why the likes of Rupert Murdoch and John Ridding speak so passionately about the need to charge online readers.

Here’s our Wednesday breakdown of how individual papers have hiked their prices. But cover prices can only go up so far to recoup losses. If publishers are going to continue to employ hundreds of journalists in the next decade, it’s clear that another revenue stream has to emerge from somewhere.