ABCs: Quality newspapers suffer; popular titles buoyant

The Observer, currently the focus of much speculation as the Guardian News & Media looks at possible options for the title, has posted a fall of 2.84% in the latest monthly ABC figures, partially driven by the stripping out of “bulks.”


The average circulation figures for national newspapers for July are traditionally down due to the summer holidays with people breaking their traditional buying habits as they go on vacation. However, the popular titles seem to have overturned this received wisdom.

This year’s July figures are complicated by the voluntary decision of GNG to strip out 16,000 bulk sales from the Guardian and 5,000 from The Observer. The Observer has posted a figure of 398,330 for July, down 7.47% year-on-year for the period February to July, taking the title below 400,000 for the first time.

Rival quality Sunday newspapers also dropped, with The Sunday Times down 1.6% to 1,190,936 and The Sunday Telegraph down 2.18% to 602,495. The Independent on Sunday dropped 1.28% to 160,395, down 22.12% year-on-year.

The weekday quality titles saw a big drop en masse, down 7.09% overall year-on-year for February to July to 2,451,977. The Guardian dropped 2.16% to 328,773 from June to July, The Indepepdnet fell 5.68% to 189,013, The Daily Telegraph fell 1.97% to 818,937 and The Times fell 1.76% to 580,483.

The Financial Times saw a slip of 3.49% on June to 397,600 and is down 6.86% year-on-year but has also been removing bulks, as detailed below.

The popular titles registered some gains month-on-month, possibly due to the extensive coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. News International’s The Sun jumped 3.07% on June to 3,121,407, also partially driven by its price cut to 20 pence in the Carlton region. The Daily Mirror rose 0.73% to 1,340,028 and the Daily Star rose 1.91% to 887,106.

In the middle market the Daily Mail dropped 1.02% month-on-month to 734,045 and the Daily Express rose 0.62% to 734,045.

Year-on-year figures have been revised for some newspaper groups as a result of an ABC inquiry into bulk sales, particularly those to airlines via wholesale distributor Dawson Holdings.

ABC says that during an inspection of the claimed circulation of airline multiple copy sales for the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Financial Times (Oct 08 to Jan 09, Mar 09 only), The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Telegraph for the periods October 2008 to April 2009, the required Reporting Standards could not be met in full as the audit trail for payment of certain copies was not compliant with the standards.

The newspapers concerned have ensured that the figures since May have been properly audited.

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