Newspaper Print Sales: Will The Decline Ever End?

newspapers on table

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.


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