Modelling circulation slippage

Why the decline? And how titles buck the trend

Philip Preston

Regional daily and paid weekly sales have been dropping for some years. If less severe than the nationals' losses, the trend is worrying. New modelling work by the Henley Centre for Forecasting, described here, has quantified the key factors seemingly at work, ending much speculation and perhaps exploding some popular industry misconceptions. Price relationships, social change, the recession and increased affluence are examined. A second phase of the study has identified the marketing and editorial qualities that enable many titles to enjoy dynamic long-term growth against this general downward trend.

The regional press has experienced a slow but steady decline in circulation over the past 15 years. If not as rapid as national newspapers it is still a cause for concern. (National titles have lost around 8.5 per cent of total copies sold since 1987 - regional mornings have lost only 2.5 per cent over the same period.) However, if the present trend were to accelerate, the effects could be grave. (See Exhibit 1.)

EXHIBIT 1: AVERAGE CIRCULATION % CHANGE PER ANNUM

  Daily mornings Daily evenings Weekly paid for All paid for regionals
1983-1989 -0.8 -1.2 -4.2 -2.8
1990-1992 -1.3 -2.6 -4.4 -3.4
1993-1995 -0.7 -0.9 -1.3 -1.1