National newspaper circulation: freezing March chills sales

By Dominic Ponsford

This year’s freezing March weather may have had a chilling effect on newspaper circulations because nearly every national newspaper was down year-on-year.

The red-top tabloids fared worst: the dailies were down 4.97 per cent year-on-year on average, compared to 4.49 per cent last month, and the Sundays were down 7.36 per cent, compared to an average of 4.06 per cent lin February.

The quality morning market continued to grow overall in March (up 0.29 per cent year-on-year) fuelled by the growth of the Financial Times and the Guardian.

For the first time the FT broke down its sales by region revealing that its 445,986 total equates to Europe (137,517), UK and Ireland (136,876), United States 135,368 and Asia (36,212). Most of the FT’s 2.8 per cent year-on-year sales increase is accounted for by an 8,000 increase multiple give-away copies to 33,212.

The Guardian was the only other quality morning title rising – up 3.49 per cent year-on-year to 379,835. While the Guardian is still feeling the benefits of its Berliner-size relaunch in September – it is still a long way short of regaining the 400,000 benchmark circulation figure it enjoyed two years ago before the tabloid Times and Independent came on the scene.

The UK’s first new national paper to be launched in 20 years, The Sportsman, will have its first official ABC sales figure next month. But despite being launched only eight days into March, it may have already affected sales of established gambling title The Racing Post.

The Cheltenham Festival means March is always The Post’s biggest sale and this month it sold 86,419 a day on average – down 7.6 per cent year-on-year. Another reason for the Post’s sales dip year-on-year may be the fact that Easter, a big racing weekend, fell in March last year – and the affect of cold weather on racing conditions.

Unofficial estimates of Sportsman sales vary from 17,000 a day to more than double that. It is understood to be doing particularly well in certain regions – particularly: Ireland, Liverpool, Newcastle and London.

The Daily Mail was the only other daily to record a year-on-year increase, up 0.6 per cent to 2,397,768 – comprehensively trouncing its mid-market rival the Daily Express, which was down 11.4 per cent to 831,923.

The Independent on Sunday and the Observer were the only two UK-wide nationals to put on sales in the Sunday market.

Increased marketing spending and the continuing popularity of its tabloid relaunch back in October helped the IoS boom 11.32 per cent year-on-year to 233,193.

Observer sales have settled down after January’s extraordinary 21 per cent year-on-year rise following its Berliner-size relaunch. Sales in March were up a rather more sustainable 6.65 per cent year-on-year to 473,732.

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