Monday, 3 December 2012

The Explosive Growth of UK National Newspapers

Perhaps you read that headline and think I am being sarcastic?

I am not. I want to explode a myth.

Despite all the sob stories we keep hearing about the decline of UK national newspapers, actually the reverse is true.

Rather than the power and influence of newspapers being in decline, National newspapers are acheiving hugely increased power and influence.

Have a look at this table:

Newspaper Site Daily Monthly Change * Paper Daily
Mail Online
The Sun
The Independent
Mirror Group Digital

*Daily Change Year on Year.

The 'Daily' figures shown in the second column show the daily 'unique' visitors to each National Newspaper's website. Please note the 'Paper Daily' figures are from Jan 2012 so will probably have declined a little since then. I should also point out that these figures will most likely not be 100% accurate as there are quite severe technical limitations in the way in which data is collected.

The Daily Mail is still selling nearly 2 million paper based newspapers per day - a decline of only 22% in 10 years yet this is counterbalanced by a massive increase in visitors to Mail Online - nearly 7 million visitors per day and a growth of over 46% compared to the daily figure a year ago!

The Sun, whose online presence is not nearly as successful as The Mail, is still counterbalancing a decline of approx 26% in paper based readers in 10 years with a nearly 1.5 million online viewers per day.

Across the board, paper based newspaper sales are, unsurprisingly declining. 10 Years ago in 2002, roughly 9.8 million daily newspapers were sold. By January 2012 it was down to 6.5 million.

But, can anyone really look at these figures and conclude that the influence of National Newspapers is in decline?

The simple reality is that the Internet has fundamentally increased the power and influence of newspapers even if some of them are having a tough time transitioning their financial model from high cost paper based advertising and a cover price to free Internet sites with lower cost advertising.

Why has this happened?

When the Internet first came along in the late 1990s, most Newspapers were initially very slow on the uptake. The Telegraph experimented with a 'Paywall' (charging for online content) very early on, failed to get it to work and then started delivering news on a free website. Most newspaper people (some of whom I worked with at the time) saw the Internet as a threat, rather than an opportunity.

I vividly remember sitting at Apple World in Stockley Park (Uxbridge) watching a seriously impressive presentation by someone from the Guardian who explained that they were going with a free model, were clearly taking it very seriously and were investing effort and vision in the long term.

Looking at the table above, you can see they succeeded. The Guardian now has almost 20 times more daily visitors than daily sales of the paper newspaper! No one else even comes close. The Sun and the Mirror actually have less online visitors than paper sales.

Two interesting bits of news surfaced today. The Guardian are selling their share in AutoTrader for around 600million and Rupert Murdoch has announced that he is closing down 'The Daily' an Ipad based newspaper that has failed.

I am not surprised by either news item. The Guardian have done a brilliant 'online' job and News International have failed dismally. The Guardian are reported to be losing around £40 million a year on their overall operations but, I suspect are still investing for the future.

Conversely, just when sales of tablets are exploding, News International appear to be performing a minor retreat.

So how are newspapers managing this huge growth in readership?

Simple - 'Brand Awareness'.

Suppose you want news. Which brands are going to pop into your head?

You might think of the BBC, but the Beeb is a broadcaster and programme maker so the chances are you will think more immediately of one of the National Newspapers..

And that is what's driving this growth. Sure there is now a broader and more diverse source of news -blogs, news websites such as Huffington Post etc but generally people go to the websites of the news sources they always have used..

And rather than having to buy a newspaper in the morning and then watch the 9 or 10 o'clock news at night, people can now get news when they want it, on their phone or laptop or desktop computer or now, on their tablet.

YouGov recently estimated that there are around 6 million tablets being used in the UK with that expected to grow to 10 million by autumn 2013.

The phone was always a limited medium for reading news (or anything really), but the tablet is ideal..

So expect newspaper's growth to continue exploding for some time. But don't expect newspapers to tell you about it.


Because they want you and people like Lord Justice Brian Leveson to think that newspapers are in decline so that instead of realising their incredible and increasing power to influence politicians and the electorate, we will think that their lack of responsibility, mis-reporting, distortions, misrepresentations and general skullduggery are a problem that is inevitably going away - so why bother demanding high standards of conduct?

Think about it.


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