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14 November 2011 - 7:47am | posted by | 2 comments

The real shock horror story: the inexorable decline in Scottish daily newspaper sales

The Herald: Below 50,000The Herald: Below 50,000

Aberdeen journalist Hamish MacKay looks over the circulation figures for Scotland's newspaper industry, released at the end of last week, and isn't too impressed by what he sees.

The apparently inexorable decline in the circulations of the Scottish-produced daily newspapers makes for sobering – nay shocking - reading.

Just take a close look at some of the headline figures which have emerged from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) latest figures which compare sales in Scotland between October last year and last month.

• Daily Star of Scotland: down 19.3% from 78,379 to 63,241
• The Herald: down 13.2% - from 52,642 to 45,646.
• Scottish Daily Express: down 9.9% - from 70,574 to 63,601
• Daily Record: down 8.6% -from 292,390 to 267,075
• The Scotsman: down 8.3% - from 41,758 to 38,289
• The Scottish Sun: down 5.7% - from 333,812 to 314,822
• Scottish Daily Mail: down 5.6% - from 114,461 to 108,047.

These are hugely depressing figures for media buffs, like myself, who adore newspapers in all their shapes and forms.

However, it must be positively soul-destroying news for all those who directly or indirectly rely on the Scottish newspaper industry to put food on their tables.

It is not as if these dailies are overpriced. If I nip into a High Street store, I can buy The Scottish Sun for just 30p.

A slim (and getting slimmer) packet of Rizla cigarette rolling papers will cost me up to 65p, and a pack of 20 Embassy Regal approaching £7.50p.

And as I sit down in eager anticipation to peruse my customary assorted clutch of dailies, my large latte has set me back up to £2.85p.

To me, every daily newspaper is a wonderful potpourri of goodies - each of them a minor miracle of distillation. The sheer volume of information packed into each daily newspaper is mind-boggling.

Just consider the intricate and disciplined work that goes into the TV and radio pages; the racing sections and sports results; the financial pages; the letters pages; and the weather news.

The marked circulation decline phenomenon is no respecter of niche markets or perceived quality standards.

It strikes across the board – at the red-tops including the Daily Record and the Scottish Sun; mid-market institutions such as the Scottish Daily Express and the Scottish Daily Mail; and, perhaps most remarkably, the indigenous Scottish ‘quality’ newspapers such as The Herald and The Scotsman.

The “tartan-skirted” quality papers are not exempt. The Times has dropped 14.3% from 22,215 to 19,042 and The Guardian is down 7.8% - from 14,038 to 12,936.
Even the usually steady-as-you go Financial Times is being badly hit – down 18% from 4226 to 3461.

And it must be a sobering thought for the editorial staffs of The Herald and The Scotsman that their combined circulation of 83,935 copies is not so really that far ahead of the 63,131 collectively notched up by The FT, The Guardian, The Independent, the Daily Telegraph and The Times.

Comparative figures for Scotland‘s regional dailies – The Courier, the Paisley Daily Express and the Press and Journal, and the country’s five evening newspaper, are not yet available.

I will examine the Scottish Sunday newspaper market tomorrow.

Here is the full ABC UK national press circulation breakdown for last month compared to October last year the year-on-year change.
It reveals the average sale and percentage change year-on-year.

Dailies
Daily Mirror: 1,118,120; -7.98
Daily Record: 293,091; -8.62
Daily Star: 658,690; -16.99
The Sun: 2,715,473; -6.50
Daily Express: 614,534; -4.38
Daily Mail: 1,998,363; -6.15
The Daily Telegraph: 603,901; -7.80
Financial Times: 345,077; -14.14
The Herald: 45,813; -13.33
The Guardian: 230,541; -16.60
I: 211,467;
The Independent: 133,449; -26.84
The Scotsman: 38,787; -9.49
The Times: 417,197; -12.92
Racing Post: 49,518; -7.66

Sundays
Daily Star Sunday: 688,058; 97.92
Sunday Mail: 392,775; 1.97
Sunday Mirror: 1,773,627; 56.51
The People: 804,126; 58.14
Sunday Express: 679,265; 23.24
Sunday Post: 316,842; -1.18
The Mail on Sunday: 2,000,251; -1.82
Independent on Sunday: 130,942; -15.17
The Observer: 268,355; -14.39
Scotland on Sunday: 48,569; -9.43
Sunday Herald: 28,990; -31.45
The Sunday Telegraph: 471,894; -6.81
The Sunday Times: 967,990; -8.54

Full UK national press circulation breakdown for October (month-on-month change)

Dailies
Daily Mirror: 1,118,120; -2.24
Daily Record: 293,091; -1.65
Daily Star: 658,690; -3.31
The Sun: 2,715,473; -0.36
Daily Express: 614,534; -0.50
Daily Mail: 1,998,363; -0.52
The Daily Telegraph: 603,901; -0.54
Financial Times: 345,077; 0.14
The Herald 45,813; -2.10
The Guardian: 230,541; -0.87
I: 211,467; 14.68
The Independent: 133,449; -24.60
The Scotsman: 38,787; -1.63
The Times: 417,197; -2.88
Racing Post: 49,518; -1.21

Sundays
Daily Star Sunday: 688,058; -2.17
Sunday Mail: 392,775; -1.83
Sunday Mirror: 1,773,627; -3.90
The People: 804,126; -4.18
Sunday Express: 679,265; -0.13
Sunday Post: 316,842; -2.38
The Mail on Sunday: 2,000,251; 1.04
Independent on Sunday: 130,942; -15.15
The Observer: 268,355; -1.71
Scotland on Sunday: 48,569; -1.11
Sunday Herald: 28,990; -0.58
The Sunday Telegraph: 471,894; -2.03
The Sunday Times: 967,990; -1.65

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Comments

14 Nov 2011 - 22:47
Gordon Young's picture

There is a future for newspapers, but only if they can rapidly evolve and adapt to this new digital era. The reflex of publishers is to protect profit margins, by cutting costs as advertising and circulation revenue falls. The result is the type of figures highlighted above. What publishers need to do is invest in good journalism (content really is king) and new platforms which will complement the print side of the business. In other words, the newspaper business is now a long term game. Those looking for short term returns would be better speculating somewhere else.

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15 Nov 2011 - 11:25
John Heuston's picture

Spot on Gordon. Scottish-based newspapers seem to be so slow in the uptake of the models adopted by for example the FT and The Guardian. Good journalism as yo say too, key - social media as part of the mix too. I also think there's a qualitative issue too, who is buying newspapers, and are their needs fully being addressed? Many of the issues in sum are basic marketing issues - product (get it right), price (paywall?) and being early-adopters to new ways of doing things. And if newspapers need help, I have students who know their stuff - (shameless plug) - use those who are potential and future readers.

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