Only Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf could put a positive spin on sales of national newspapers in March. Latest figures show that the massive coverage of the war in Iraq was a turn-off for readers.
Sales of the Daily Mirror crashed below 2 million for the first time in 70 years, every “popular” Sunday was down month-on-month and, apart from business titles, no quality or popular daily newspaper could muster an increase of more than 1 per cent on February.
The quality sector has been in the doldrums ever since The Daily Telegraph decided to cut down on bulk sales last year. The sector is now showing a fall of nearly 5 per cent in the six months to the end of March, compared to the same period a year ago.
The only quality titles that managed to show a month-on-month increase were The Independent and The Guardian, which both took an anti-war line, and the Financial Times, which has been boosted by its sales abroad.
The Independent on Sunday, which also came out against the war, was up 0.4 per cent on February. The only other quality Sunday to show a monthly rise was The Business, up nearly 8 per cent.
Sales of the mid-market dailies were down, although Associated’s Mail on Sunday managed a monthly rise of 0.6 per cent.
One bit of good news for Express Newspapers remained the strong showing of the Daily Star, up for the fourth consecutive month and showing a year-on-year rise of nearly 30 per cent.
The Sun also showed a monthly rise. While the dailies may have struggled the Evening Standard was up 4.5 per cent on February, recording its third monthly increase in a row.
By Jon Slattery