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Print down, readership up

News, 25 February 2016

LONDON: National newsbrands in the UK continue to lose print readers – some at an alarming rate – but when digital and mobile platforms are taken into account monthly readership levels are growing, according to new figures.

Data from the Publishers Audience Measurement Company (Pamco) – which has replaced the old National Readership Survey and takes account of today's multi-platform media landscape – is based on a survey of around 30,000 people to produce a national readership estimate.

In all, some 13 national titles registered double-digit falls in print readership during 2015, but across print, PC and mobile, the average monthly readership for all newsbrands was reckoned to be up 5% to 47.26m, Campaign reported.

The most spectacular decline came at the Daily Express, which Pamco said had lost more than a quarter of its print readers over the year, as monthly numbers tumbled 28% from 1,079,000 to 777,000.

But when digital platforms were included, monthly readership leapt 66.8% to 11.41m.

The pattern was repeated at other titles, with tabloids taking the biggest hits on print readership: Daily Star (-20%), Daily Mirror (-19%), The Sun (-16%).

On Pamco's figures, only one daily showed an increase in print readership – The Guardian was up 8.8% to 814,000; and when digital and mobile were added, readership rose 51.5% to 24.71m, making it the third most-read news brand.

The most-read newsbrand on the combined measure was the Daily Mail – its 28.87m monthly readers marked a 23.1% uplift on 2014 – followed by the Daily Mirror (up 49.4% to 26.12m).

"People's appetite for content has never been bigger," observed Simon Redican, chief executive of Pamco. "Where there is a challenge in the industry is about monetising that audience."

That was highlighted by other findings from Pamco's survey – that 74% of UK adults consume newsbrand content via a computer or handheld device and that digital is driving an increase in readership of 33.6% each month.

"Print is still powerful for uniting large numbers of people but consumer behaviour is changing, and publishers understand that they need to make their content available where the audience is," said Redican.

Preliminary estimates from the AA/Warc Expenditure Report show an annual decline of 12.2% in print ad revenue for national newsbrands in 2015, to a total of £1,015m. This was somewhat tempered by a 6.0% rise in digital ad revenue, however the combined total demonstrated a 9.3% fall year-on-year.

The rate of overall decline is forecast to soften to 4.6% this year, comprised of a 7.3% annual dip in print adspend and a 7.8% rise for digital.

Data sourced from Campaign; additional content by Warc staff