The launch of a tabloid version by UK daily broadsheet The Times has not yielded the large sales increase many were expecting.

According to circulation figures for December -- the first full month after the tabloid's launch in the Greater London area [WAMN: 24-Nov-03] -- the News Corporation-owned paper achieved daily sales of 636,331, up just 2.3% on November and down 6% year-on-year.

The figures, from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, indicate that The Times sold an extra 14,000 daily copies last month compared with November. But the tabloid version -- now launched outside London -- sold 54,121 a day, suggesting that many of its buyers were existing broadsheet Times readers.

Rupert Murdoch sanctioned the compact version in November following the runaway success of The Independent, which pioneered the compact, commuter-friendly format two months earlier and saw sales jump 7.7% in October.

However, The Independent's circulation fell back slightly in December (traditionally a bad month for publishers). The paper sold 237,816 copies a day last month, down 1% compared with November but still well above pre-tabloid levels.

Of the other broadsheet nationals, the Daily Telegraph -- said to be mulling its own tabloid version -- slipped to 911,795, down 0.6% from November; The Guardian tumbled 2.9% to 375,073; and the Financial Times bucked the downward trend with a rise of 3.1% to 447,552.

Elsewhere, all tabloid and mid-market national dailies were down compared with the previous month. There were also declines across the Sunday market, with the exceptions of The People, which rose just 0.6% to 1.04 million, and The Business, up 5.5% to 287,299.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff