Newspaper Print Sales: Will The Decline Ever End?


Credit: Flickr/Alex Barth

The question is no longer how far national newspaper circulation can fall, but whether it will stop falling at all. The latest ABC figures for August illustrate how readers continue to leave in droves…

— Daily papers’ are down three percent year on year to a total average of 11.32 million 10.98 million a day.
— Sundays fell 5.3 percent to 11.82 million 11.18 million copies a week.

August is a quiet month, the industry likes to say — but that doesn’t help explain away the sheer size of some declines.

Of the dailies, only the Daily Star — massively discounted at 20p and backed by advertising spend — managed a circulation lift and The Sunday Times offered the only other glimmer of hope with a modest 0.7 percent rise year on year.

What does this mean?

— Publishers that discount cover prices, spend millions on ad campaigns and give away period drama DVDs are simply buying smaller declines than everyone else.

— “Quality” counts for very little in this market – newspapers with the most laudable news coverage and design are suffering just as badly.

Papers have expanded in size immensely in the last decade and improved their content but as our research last week showed, daily circulation has dropped by 19.1 percent since 2001. On that evidence, the floor of this fall may still be some years away.

One other point: The Independent — which at least one major Independent News & Media shareholder would like to sell — managed an average of 187,837, a 18.3 percent drop on August 2008. That’s not far from the UK’s largest regional paper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star, which sells an average of 128,000 a day.


Patrick Smith

@PPrest52 thanks for pointing out the error which has now been corrected.


Alas, Patrick's figures seem frail. The August ABC declines were 3% for UK national dailies and 5.37% for Sundays (with the daily figure much assisted by a mere 1.01% fall for the redtops). But I'm afraid he's read the August 08 line and reproduced it as August 09 – which means the dailies overall should be 10.98 million and the Sundays 11.19 million.
The end of the world coming? Maybe. But August is a hugely variable month which depends on where and how many holidays are taken – and how often it rains. (Not to mention the impact of price rises and some big cut backs on bulks and foreign sales).

Robert Andrews

There *is* no decline in newspaper sales, IMHO. The seeds of media plurality were sown too many years ago.


I noticed the other day that I stopped looking at Newspaper sites FOR THE FIRST TIME. I was getting all my info from other sites. One of the reasons is that they dont allow free commentary on news stories. I feel as if there's a block there… I go elsewhere….

Comments are closed.