A reasonable May for National Newspapers but the bigger picture looks very bleak

Following a decent performance in April when the Royal Wedding provided a much needed boost to national newspaper circulations, overall May hasn’t been too bad with the total national newspaper market showing a fall in circulation of just 0.17% compared to April, which amounts to just over 34,000 copies.

In May the news headlines were dominated by super-injunctions and it is likely that the national press have these to thank for holding circulations. The Popular titles did fairly well out of this with The Sun, News of the World and Daily Star all showing month on month increases of 1.95%, 2.29% and 1.43% respectively. Interestingly the Sunday Herald in Scotland which actually broke the Ryan Giggs story showed a massive month on month growth of 9.18%, a much needed boost for the title which has lost over half its circulation over the last 5 years. Its stable mate the Herald also had a good May with sales up 1.35%, as did closest rivals The Scotsman (up 1.84%) and Scotland on Sunday (up an impressive 7.18%). Also performing very well in May was i, up 3.67% and The Sunday Times, up 3.08%.

It wasn’t a positive month for everyone though with the biggest loser being The Sunday Express which lost nearly 40,000 sales per issue (6.36%), closely followed by the Racing Post (down 5.98%) and The Sunday Telegraph (down 5.71%).

The month on month data is however a little misleading if you are interested in the overall state of the newspaper market. Taking a look at the year on year figures (December 10 to May 11, compared to December 09 to May 10), every single title is showing decline. Interestingly the title showing the greatest growth in the month on month figures The Sunday Herald, is actually showing the greatest decline in the year on year figures (down 17.81). Other double digit losers include The Daily Star (down 12.16%), Daily Star Sunday (down 11.76%), Observer (down 11.92%) and the Times (down 11.96%). Whilst the market still sells almost 20 million copies, overall it has lost over a million sales in the last year.

Even more interesting is the 10 year trend. Back in 2001/2002 the total market was selling just under 30 million copies, that is nearly 8 million copies more than present. Whilst almost all of the last 10 years have shown decline in the market, the most worrying trend for newspaper owners is the rate at which decline has accelerated in the last 3 years, losing between 1.2 million and 1.5 million copy sales per year. Should the market continue to lose this amount of sales, it will only be 16 years before it ceases to exist. The key question however is at what point do newspaper owners cut their losses and close titles? The answer to that question probably lies with advertisers as newspapers can only survive with their support. However, advertisers will only continue to use newspapers if they can continue to deliver their target audiences, so the future fate of national newspapers is very much in their own hands.

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