MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Newspapers have a 'good war' in the wake of atrocities

It is an ill wind that blows no-one any good, and in the context of

11 September and this week's air attacks on Afghanistan, it's worth

noting that one of the few beneficiaries of global turmoil is the

newspaper industry.

As the September ABCs published this Friday will show, the papers have

had a "good war" so far. Clearly they all put on a huge increase in

sales on 12 September - although the ones that did best were those with

the nerve to up their print runs as high as they could go. Those that

were cautious in printing extra copies - mindful perhaps they lose money

on the cover price - lost out in sales terms.

The real interest, however, is in the period from 12 September to the

end of the month because it shows the extent to which the sales uplift

has been sustained, if at all, and if irregular readers have been


While the editorial coverage has been without exception outstanding,

there are two clear winners in sales terms. As I understand it The

Guardian's ABC will be up some 10 per cent for September at 440,000.

Insofar as anything is predictable today, you would expect the

broadsheets, equipped with legions of specialist writers and a mission

to explain, to have done best. The surprise package, however, is the

Daily Mail, whose ABC will be some 8 per cent up at close on 2.6

million, up by nearly 190,000.

(I should add that the Daily Star also recorded an astonishing 12 per

cent jump in circulation in September. I don't wish to take anything

away from a remarkable revival, but I think that has more do to with its

full-on focus on football than its insightful analysis of the man it now

calls, for headline purposes only, "Bin".)

As far as the Daily Mail and The Guardian are concerned, however, both

now appear to occupy that enviable position of being the papers that

non- or occasional readers turn to when occasion demands. Of the other

dailies, The Sun and The Mirror are believed to be down 5 per cent and

1.5 per cent respectively. I'm not surprised by either, although you

have to wonder whether The Mirror's relatively better performance can be

explained by the fact that its coverage of the crisis was altogether

more serious.

At the Daily Express, meanwhile, they must wonder why they get up in the

morning. Even in the best month for sales since Diana's death, it

recorded a decline of some 60,000 - a 250,000 sales differential with

the Daily Mail. Enough said.

It is often said that newspapers succeed when TV cannot deliver the

pictures. Yet here we had vivid and visceral wall-to-wall TV coverage of

the tragedy, and sales still rose dramatically. It's too simplistic to

say that advertisers should take advantage of higher circulations, but

anybody who thinks the newspaper medium has had its day should think


- Claire Beale is away.


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