Berliner success is vital after Guardian sales slump

By Dominic Ponsford

Has The Guardian’s £80m relaunch in Berliner format come in time to salvage its plunging circulation?

In August the paper’s sale dropped to a new low of 341,698 – down
6.26 per cent year-on-year and the worst performance in the quality
daily market.

The drop is partly due to a reduction in 10,000 on bulk give-away copies. And the paper is also understood to have suspended marketing activity pending the relaunch in Berliner format on Monday.

But
going on August’s figure the paper will have to put on 40,000 sales
just to get back to where it was two years ago before the launch of the
tabloid Independent.

In the battle of the tabloid quality papers,
The Times is now coursing ahead – up 4.96 per cent year-on-year and
selling 32,000 more copies than it did this time last year.

Editor
Robert Thomson said: “The Times compact is the outstanding success
story of the newspaper market, selling more copies than The Independent
and The Guardian combined.

“And as the only quality daily
newspaper in the UK market with a year-on-year increase in August, it
is clear to see that the paper continues to welcome many new readers,
attracted by the format and captivated by the content. The remarkable
result is a tribute to Times journalism and Times journalists.”

Elsewhere
at News International there is cause for celebration as both The Sun
and the News of the World comfortably out-performed their markets. The Sun was down a creditable 0.07 per cent year-on-year, compared to the Daily Mirror down 2.82 per cent. And the News of the World enjoyed its first year-on-year circulation increase for some months – up 0.34 per cent.

The
brakes appear to have gone on at The Independent, which has seen its
second successive year-on-year circulation drop. Last month was the
first year-onyear drop since it brought out a tabloid version in
September 2003.

At Express Newspapers both flagship titles appear
to be in serious circulation trouble. The Daily Express is down 8.76
per cent year-on-year and the Sunday Express down 12.59 per cent. At
876,563 the Daily Express now lags behind the Daily Star.

A
closer look at the figures reveals that the Express’ decision to cut
down bulk give-away copies accounts for most of its reduction. On
actively purchased sales, year-on-year, the Daily Express was down 3.22
per cent and the Sunday Express down 2.46 per cent.

Both titles
have been subject to editorial cost-cutting and Express Newspapers is
now the only major UK national newspaper publisher (apart from the
Financial Times) yet to announce investment in the next generation of
colour printing technology.Such presses are seen as vital to the long-term viability of national newspapers.

The
Daily Telegraph claimed a minor victory in its circulation war with The
Times by saying that the circulation gap between the two titles was
10,000 bigger this month than last month.

The Telegraph said its
figures were boosted by coverage of the start of the football season
and the nail-biting Ashes cricket series.

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