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November ABC's

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By Carat on Media..., Media

December 12, 2011 | 5 min read

Overview by Martin Wilson, Account Manager - Press

An annual newspaper subscription would make an excellent Christmas present would it not? Perhaps not the most exciting thing to unwrap on Christmas morning but who could fail to be charmed by the printed product dropping through the letterbox every day from Boxing day? Judging by the November ABCs, nobody would get all that excited.

Only two of the national daily newspapers recorded month on month increases in November. Unsurprisingly the i was one of them, adding another 10,000 copies to record a 4.9% increase on last month, taking its circulation to an impressive 221,736. At this current rate of acceleration it should overtake The Guardian’s monthly sales in December. The rise of the i has been considerable and much heralded in this column. A slightly closer look at the numbers reveals a substantial amount of bulk sales with around 44,000 copies going into Airports, rail stations, hotels and coffee shops. Regardless, the numbers are impressive and the newspaper’s strategy for circulation growth certainly appears to be doing the trick.

The Daily Mail is the only other national daily title to show any lift this month, with a small increase of 0.2% on October’s sales pushing its circulation to just over the 2 million mark for November.

Overall the national daily market dropped in November by 1.7% compared to October’s figures. The biggest losers were the Independent (again), down 4.2% on last month, and The Sun, which dropped by 3.4%. However, with sales of 2,624,167, The Sun remains miles ahead of all the other national dailies in the circulation stakes.

When we compare November’s figures this year to the same time last year, the circulation loss in the national daily market is a very significant 6.7%. In November 2010, 9.5 million papers were sold on a daily basis. In 2011 this number has dropped below the 9 million mark to 8.9 million. When you consider that the November 2011 figure includes the i’s circulation, the total sales figure becomes more significant.

I’d love to report on a buoyant Sunday market but it’s a difficult task! The Independent on Sunday was the only national Sunday title to increase sales on last month. A 1.7% increase on October’s figures took their circulation in November to 133,108 copies, so a positive month on the face of it. However, compared to November 2010 they’ve dropped nearly 12%, so any short term joy is very short lived.

The most significant monthly drops in the Sunday market were recorded by the Daily Star Sunday (down 3.3%) and the Sunday Express (down 3.1%). All the other losses were relatively low.

The post NOTW upheaval in the Sunday Market continues. Let’s forget for a short moment that the NOTW ever existed. Comparing like for like, 7.7 million national Sunday papers were sold in November 2011 compared to a paltry 6.5million in 2010. This is a 19.2% increase, which has to be cause for celebration. But add in the 2.7 million copies the NOTW was selling in Nov 2010 and you can put those party plans on hold.

The YoY statistics for the Sunday papers still look very dramatic. The enormous gains made by the popular Sundays (Star on Sunday increase is still over 100% up) are balanced by very substantial drops in the quality Sunday market. The SMALLEST drop is the Sunday Telegraph which is down 7.2%. Clearly the overall Sunday market has lost a huge amount of sales and the NOTW is the culprit. Whilst popular Sundays have gained perhaps the demise in the quality Sunday market paint a more realistic picture of what is happening in the overall market.

In Scotland the picture is a similar one although it should be noted that there were a few gains in the Scottish indigenous quality market. The Herald, Scotsman and their Sunday counterparts were all up, but we’re only talking about a few hundred copies per title. However, the Daily Record had a shocking month, down 5% compared to a November circulation of 278,498.

The total market in Scotland was down by 2.8% vs last month. However, vs last year it was down nearly 11% north of the border, almost 1% worse than the picture nationally.

The release of the December figures next year will allow us to take a look at the annual circulation figures for the calendar year and bring to an end one of the most dramatic years in the history of newspapers. We’ll see what the new year has to bring for the market. Perhaps the first half of 2012 will see News International move back into the popular Sunday market? It’s a sector that could certainly do with some positive news.

So what did the excitable little boy in the John Lewis TV ad buy his parents for Christmas? My guess is that it wasn’t a Sunday Times subscription.

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