February ABCs: 390,000 'bulks' given away each day

• Daily Star rises and Independent slumps
• Sunday Times reports circulation rise
• London freesheets outperform Standard
• No sign of recovery for Scottish titles

The Independent and the Independent on Sunday relied the most on free ‘bulk’ giveaways to bolster their circulation figures in February, according to data released by ABC.

The titles, which recorded the steepest year-on-year circulation declines in February – down 18 and 21 per cent respectively – gave away about a fifth of their copies through airlines, hotels and trains.

The UK red-tops and middle market tabloids, with the exception of the Daily Mail, avoided bulks last month – but the practice was widespread at the quality end of the market.

Bulk copies of newspapers are sold to leisure centres and train companies at a reduced price and then given to readers for free.

Some 20.2 per cent of the Independent’s circulation came from bulks – 41,553 out of 205,964.

Its sister title, the Independent on Sunday, gave away 21.9 per cent of copies – the biggest percentage of any national newspaper – representing 39,295 copies out of 179,487.

The Daily Telegraph was also a heavy user of bulks, giving away 13.6 per cent of its copies – 112,004 a day on average.

Bulks represented also nine per cent of The Times’s headline 607,775 circulation – about 55,000 papers.

In the Sunday market, the Sunday Telegraph gave away 11.5 per cent of its copies.

The Mail on Sunday saw six per cent of its circulation – 130,365 out of 2,184,982 – come from bulk giveaways.

According to The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, ABC is preparing a “forensic review” of how newspapers use bulks, amid claims of a wide gap between the reported figures and reality.

Bulks as a percentage of headline circulation – February 2009
The Independent – 20.2%
Daily Telegraph – 13.6%
The Times – 9.0%
Financial Times – 7.8%
Daily Mail – 5.8%
The Guardian – 4.3%
Daily Mirror, Daily Star, The Sun, Daily Express – 0%

Independent on Sunday – 21.9%
The Sunday Telegraph – 11.5%
Mail on Sunday – 6.0%
The Observer – 5.5%
The Sunday Times – 1.7%
Daily Star Sunday, News of the World, Sunday Mirror, The People, Sunday Express – 0%

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