The latest ABC circulation figures confirm that newspaper reading habits
in the UK are changing: readers are turning away from the tabloids,
while the broadsheets are growing in popularity. The latest six-month
figures show that sales of all the daily broadsheets were up - with the
predictable exception of the Independent - and sales of every tabloid
except the Daily Mail were down. It’s the continuation of a trend that
began four years ago.
The sales boost to the quality dailies from the election campaign is
only part of the story. The broadsheets have become much more
accessible, with fewer heavyweight news pages, and their special
sections and supplements have managed to attract particular target
Price cutting - from the Times’s discounted Monday edition to the Daily
Telegraph’s heavy use of subscription promotions - has also played a
part. The Guardian would seem to have benefited from its strong record
on political exclusives and its clear brand positioning, and has steered
clear of discounting.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Independent. Mercifully for its
chief executive, David Montgomery, sales were up by an impressive 11.82
per cent in September, the month of its relaunch. The big question is
whether the increase was just down to the price reduction that
accompanied the relaunch and whether it can be sustained.
The success story of 1997 is the middle market Daily Mail now barely
100,000 copies short of the Mirror. The Mail’s prediction that it will
overtake the Mirror by early 1998 cannot be dismissed.
The Mail’s success must be sickening for the Express, which continues to
languish despite a huge investment in the title over the past year.
’There’s little difference between the Express and the Mail in terms of
product - the Express is a good product but it has absolutely no
cachet,’ Colin Gottlieb, a partner of Manning Gottlieb Media, says. ’The
challenge for the Express and Mirror is to maintain their share of the
There is growing pressure for an end to price cutting which is costing
publishers dear. Discount subscription offers for the Daily and Sunday
Telegraph cost Conrad Black a reported pounds 19.8 million last year. To
the dismay of the Telegraph’s executives, the offers were not just taken
up by new readers but also by loyal readers.
The price war has been even fiercer in Scotland with the Sun selling at
a discount every day in its head-to-head with the Daily Record, and the
Daily Mail and Express also indulging in a spot of discounting.
Regional newspaper publishers have a lot to cheer about. Circulation
figures have stabilised after two decades of decline, and their share of
advertising revenue is growing at an impressive 14.4 per cent.
Ireland is basking in the warm glow of its economic success and
newspapers, its biggest advertising market, are certainly not being left
There are now six Irish dailies, compared with the eight that were on
sale four years ago, but the growing incursions made by the
English-owned Mirror and Sun have merely helped reinvigorate the market.
Earlier this year they helped ignite a circulation war by cutting cover
prices from 60p to 40p and 45p respectively. The Irish titles saw their
circulations rise by 4 per cent over the past year to 570,000, while the
UK papers now sell just over 200,000 copies. But it’s the weekly market
that has performed best in circulation terms, putting on nearly a
quarter in sales over the past four years and edging upwards to 885,000
this year. And there is now a brand new entrant in the
cut-throat Sunday market. Ireland on Sunday launched on 21 September,
has risen the ashes of the Title, a weekly sports paper that sold close
to 30,000 copies. The publisher, Title Media, is hoping for a
circulation of up to 60,000 for the new publication, which will compete
with the Sunday Independent and Sunday Tribune broadsheets, both of
which sell closer to 80,000 copies. It’s the clearest sign yet of the
buoyancy in the press market.
Newspapers’ share of the total ad cake has fallen from a high of more
than 50 per cent in 1990 to around 45 per cent, but massive new
investment in the country by UK retailers such as Tesco, Dixons, BhS and
Marks & Spencer are helping to fuel growth in papers. The Independent
Group, which owns the best-selling daily tabloid, the Evening Herald,
the best-selling daily broadsheet, the Irish Independent, and the
top-selling Sunday title, the Sunday Independent, has invested heavily
in a new printing plant to offer advertisers access to a full colour
facility for the first time.
’In the past, the group was a little complacent because of its dominant
position but it has made serious investment which is helping the
newspaper market perform extremely well,’ the all Ireland media managing
director, Liam McDonnell, says.
Germany’s strong sense of regional identity has helped to create what
has been the most robust regional newspaper market in Europe. And
although the number of titles fell for the fourth consecutive year,
there are still 400 daily newspapers in the country, which have a
combined circulation of 25.2 million.
While this sales figure represents a decline of just 1 per cent on 1995,
the longer-term trend is more worrying - sales have slipped back for
each of the past five years and overall circulation figures have dipped
by 3 per cent over the past four years. Weekly titles, which had managed
to resist this sales erosion, have now also started to fall back - the
30 titles lost a little over 4 per cent over the past year to a fraction
over two million.
The decline among the Sunday titles was even more worrying - they have
lost 5 per cent of their overall circulation since 1992, and 2.4 per
cent over the past 12 months alone.
Weekly titles, such as Die Zeit and Wochenpost, fell back by 3.5 per
cent in the past year, at constant prices, making Germany’s the worst
performing weekly newspaper market in Europe.
The brightest spot has been the performance of the free newspaper
sector, which is dominated by the two biggest newspaper publishers, Axel
Springer and the Waz Group. Advertising revenues here have continued to
buck the national trend, improving by nearly a quarter over the past
four years, and by more than 3 per cent in the past year alone. However,
because the German newspaper market is so regionalised, it has
difficulty remaining competitive for national campaigns. The industry’s
reach of 80.7 per cent of all adults is attractive to retail advertisers
like C&A and Aldi, but costs per 1,000 are prohibitive in comparison
with other media. And while some packages are now available - for
example, Waz offers its four Northrhein titles in one 1.1 million sales
package - there aren’t yet enough to tempt buyers away from other media
for truly national campaigns.
Advertising growth in Germany overall is being fuelled by television,
which has been the fastest growing advertising market in the country
since 1989 and which is coming from a level well behind the European
average of 20 per cent. Zenith Media is predicting television
advertising growth of around 10.5 per cent for each of the next three
years, some of which is likely to be achieved at the expense of the
The shock event in the Swedish press was the ending of the evening
tabloid, Expressen’s, domination of the market. Expressen’s position as
Sweden’s top daily - held for more than 40 years - was taken by the
Schibsted-owned Aftonbladet, which increased its circulation by 5.3 per
cent in 1996 in an otherwise shrinking market.
Carina Kopriwa, client group manager at Carat Stockholm, puts
Aftonbladet’s success down to its being more ’strategic in terms of
quality’ and offering readers ’useful news’, as well as the usual
sensationalist fare provided by the tabloids.
Both tabloids and broadsheets are producing carefully targeted
supplements to attract new readers who don’t normally buy newspapers.
Women’s and lifestyle supplements, as well as TV listings guides, have
boosted sales of certain newspapers on certain days - but not overall.
Reader loyalty is proving elusive.
In common with the tabloids, the morning broadsheets are suffering from
falling circulations despite Sweden’s strong subscription tradition.
Svenska Dagbladet has just been revamped and both it and its rival,
Dagens Nyheter, are running special cut-price subscription promotions.
Whether this will help to head off competition from the morning
newspaper, Metro, which is given out free on the underground, remains to
Launched two years ago, Metro now has a print run of 250,000, which
ranks it among the top five dailies, and has a reported 7 per cent share
of the print ad market. Metro has been a particular hit with young
readers who don’t want to spend half the day reading their
One of the strategies adopted by newspaper publishers in their fight to
win back young readers has been to launch their own Websites. The
strategy makes sense. Sweden has an impressive penetration of PCs in the
home -15 per cent of the population - and as many as 90 per cent have
access to the Internet.
Most of the major titles now have Websites and they are popular -
research has shown that Aftonbladet has the most visited home page in
The Internet is also a useful source of extra ad revenue for newspapers
at a time when budgets are being switched to TV. The other good news is
that after years of pressure on budgets, adspend is forecast to rise by
up to 10 per cent this year.
The top-selling daily newspaper in France, the regional broadsheet,
Ouest France, sells more than double all the national dailies, bar Le
Ouest France’s huge circulation (although not so impressive by German or
British standards) highlights the phenomenal strength of the regional
press in France.
Most regional papers enjoy a monopoly situation and a healthy balance
sheet, thanks to substantial car and retail advertising.The regionals’
hold on the advertising market is helped by the ban on retail
advertising on French television, although this is currently being
challenged in the European Commission by the supermarket chain,
The performance of the national dailies over the past year has been
The conservative publication, Le Figaro, is a shadow of its former self
after losing circulation at the rate of between 2 and 5 per cent a year
over the past few years. Last year it suffered the ignominy of being
overtaken by the sports daily, L’Equipe. A relaunch is on the agenda
after staff changes at senior management level at Le Figaro’s owner,
Hersant Group, and the successful relaunch of Figaro magazine. The paper
badly needs to modernise to enable it to attract a more youthful
France Soir, another title in the Hersant stable, is having an even
worse time of it. Sales have fallen steadily and the powerful print
unions are resisting management plans to change to a tabloid format and
In a none too subtle effort to break the deadlock, the management fired
the editor-in-chief and threatened to close France Soir unless the
relaunch went ahead early next year.
By contrast, Le Monde and Liberation appear to have performed well so
far this year, although official figures have yet to be published. Their
relaunches last year seem to have arrested the downward trend in sales
which began after they almost doubled their cover prices in 1993-94. Le
Monde has thrown off its heavyweight image with a more accessible
Although the overall downturn in newspaper circulation has continued,
adspend on the dailies is expected to increase this year. Advertisers’
preference for short-term tactical advertising amid intense pressure on
budgets and the privatisation of France Telecom have helped the
But the upturn in advertising may not continue into next year and
competition for readers and advertisers will remain fierce.
The feverish growth that signalled Poland’s lurch toward the free market
is now gradually slowing down and the true picture becoming clearer.
There was an explosion in the newspaper market immediately after the
overthrow of Communism, and the number of titles has continued to
increase every year since then. There are now 91 daily titles in the
country as a whole, up from 74 just four years ago. Unfortunately for
advertisers, sales are no longer keeping pace with such enthusiasm. The
daily market sold a total of 5.7 million copies in 1993 but now sells
just a little over four million, and this in a country with a population
of 38.6 million. This market is dominated by the two tabloid papers,
Gazeta Wyborcza, published by Agora Gazeta, the rather racier Super
Express, published by Media Express, and by the old established
broadsheet, Rzezpospolita, which is published by Press Publica. All
three claim daily readerships in excess of one million, while Gazeta
Wyborcza has a readership figure of 2.4 million on sales of around half
Although the daily reach for newspapers as a whole in Poland is a
disappointing 46 per cent of all adults, 50 per cent of all men read a
daily paper, which has helped newspapers attract male-oriented products,
especially car brands, into the medium. This year, cars have overtaken
computers as the largest single newspaper advertiser product category,
and four of the six biggest spending brands, led by Daewoo, are car
companies. It has helped that television, the dominant medium in the
country with a 55 per cent share of total advertising, has suffered from
rampant inflation, forcing advertisers at least to examine the
possibilities of other media.
The circulation problems the daily newspapers have had are in stark
contrast to the performance of the weekly titles, which have shot ahead.
Official ABC figures for the weekly market show that the number of
titles has increased from 149 in 1992 to 189 today, while circulations
have improved by 146.5 per cent to 28.5 million. Unfortunately, these
figures include the entire consumer magazine market, which is largely
responsible for the increase.
The television listings magazine, Tele Tydien, and the women’s title,
Zycie na Goraco, together now sell nearly four million copies. However,
newspaper weeklies such as Sport have made an impact on the market. The
title now sells more than 100,000 copies.
One of the most striking features of Russian papers is their incredibly
low circulation figures. In a country of 142 million, the top selling
daily, Komsomolskaia Pravda, offers a circulation of just 1.5
The main reason is lack of finance. Production costs are so high that
publishers cannot afford huge print runs.
Distribution problems are another factor behind the low figures and
sales are concentrated in key cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg.
But even when large-scale distribution has been achieved, print runs
remain relatively low. Izvestia is printed simultaneously in 28
different sites and still only manages sales of just over 500,000 in
The political bias of the press has also held back its development.
Although newspapers may not now be subject to the overt censorship of
the Soviet era, politicians are all too often involved in the companies
that have a controlling interest in the dailies and dictate the news
A small group of powerful industrialists and financiers is establishing
a tight grip on the press. Uneximbank-MFK’s Vladimir Potanin has stakes
in Komsomolskaia Pravda and Izvestia and launched a third broadsheet
daily, the improbably named Russky Telegraph, in September. The Russky
Telegraph was intended to bring Russian newspapers up to Western
standards, but looks not unlike its rivals and still suffers from the
same distribution problems as other Russian dailies.
Potanin’s rivals in the media magnate stakes include the politician,
Boris Berezovsky, who has shares in Nezavisimaya Gazeta and two TV
channels, and the banker, Vladimir Gusinsky, who owns the newspaper,
They are wealthy individuals - they need to be. Most of Russia’s
newspapers make huge losses. Their unimpressive sales figures, poor
print quality and the fact that they only take black-and-white ads make
newspapers the third advertising medium in Russia - behind television
and magazines - according to Zenith Russia. Magazines benefit from
better quality paper and printing as they are printed abroad.
Some newspapers have tried, but failed, to attract more readers by
launching colour supplements. Julia Bondarenko, the media director of
Zenith Russia, believes that readers do not trust the quality of the
information contained in colour supplements. She predicts that even more
advertising budgets will switch away from newspapers to higher quality
magazines next year and this will continue until the dailies offer
The furious newspaper war that has been raging in Turkey for the past 18
months finally shows signs of quieting down. Five new daily titles were
launched in 1994, and the subsequent advertising and marketing drives
helped sales of newspapers as a whole to almost double between 1994 and
1995 up to a peak of 5.5 million. A push towards more home delivery of
papers, which now accounts for one in ten of every paper sold, helped
fuel this growth. Sales are now back down at 3.9 million, and, while
that still shows an improvement of 37 per cent since 1992, there were
only 14 daily titles back then. In addition, the decline represents
Europe’s worst single-year sales slide, a drop of almost a third.
Turkey’s two largest newspaper publishers, Hurriyet and Sabah, have been
challenged by a third, Milliyet Gazetetecilik, which owns what is now
the country’s top-selling title, Milliyet. It sells around 630,000
copies, putting it just ahead of Turkey’s long-time sales leader, the
premium-priced Sabah title.
This volatility in the newspaper sales market has not been matched by
the advertising market, which has gone from strength to strength.
Newspapers are the second fastest growing advertising medium in the
country, and ad revenues jumped by more than 50 per cent this year. Only
the fledgling magazine market is growing faster. The reason has been the
growing availability of full colour, an attractive cost per 1,000 rate
compared with television and, above all, the development of the
classified advertising sector into a real force.
Two years ago, classified was responsible for just 3.7 per cent of total
ad revenue. Now it captures more than 11 per cent, and has ensured that
the newspaper market remains the most valuable advertising sector in the
country. Although television has made great strides since deregulation
in 1991, it still has to catch up with newspapers, despite the fact that
television is now available in 92 per cent of homes, whereas Turkey has
one of the lowest figures for daily newspaper sales as a percentage of
population. It sells 68 copies per 1,000 people. In comparison the UK
sells 330 copies per 1,000, while at the top of the list is Norway,
which sells 592 per 1,000.