25 Oct 2014

The decline of UK newspapers

I've been playing around with some data on newspaper readership statistics to see what trends there are. Its findings are predictably gloomy - take a look at the chart below, showing average daily circulations for each January since 1956 (source: ABC). 
It shows an almost universal decline of the traditional print media. This is no surprise in itself; we all know the digital revolution has allowed people to access the information they want immediately on mobile, tablet or desktop. 

Only the Evening Standard and i are gaining readership - however modestly. It doesn't take a genius to find out why. They're cheap (or even free), easy to get hold of and accessible. Although it isn't mapped above, Metro shows similar success. Perhaps there is something to be learnt from these simple, accessible models. 

The Independent is among the most struggling papers. It claims just 0.8% of the UK's newspaper readers and has lost 120,000 readers since 2010. It's by no means alone (the Guardian, the Times and the Financial Times are just a couple of other papers to have lost well over 100,000 readers in the last four years), however there is definitely cause for concern.

All of the major UK tabloids, despite relatively high reading figures, have also plunged from the glory days of the 1960s. No other newspaper shows this better than the Daily Mirror, which now sells 
just 20% of its 1956 circulation. 

Will digital plug the gap?

The gap on the right of the chart - what will fill it? No doubt a continuation of the downward spiral all but two newspapers are currently on.

Will digital be able to sustain news organisations as their print sales continue to decline? The graph below shows that they get a lot of traffic - the question is, of course, how do you translate these hits into money to sustain your business? 

We should also be asking ourselves if all of the above publications will be able to ride this digital revolution, or whether the likes of Buzzfeed will knock a couple of the traditional paper-legacy competitors out of the game. 


The increase is astounding. On average, UK newspapers increased their hits by 44% between 2012-13 and 2013-14, which doesn't even account for the recent surges in mobile audience.

The Guardian and Mail Online get way over a million desktop hits per day and others aren't far behind. The lower numbers, such as the Times and the Sun, are due to the paywalls their companies have implemented in a way to garner money from their traffic. The numbers are impressive - so what?

Can this popularity be made lucrative enough to sustain entire media organisations? It remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, however: the digital revolution has changed the way readers consume information, and media organisations are being too slow to respond to the numbers. 


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