News brands saw universal surge in reach as coronavirus hit UK

Monthly audiences for national brands were up between 15% and 90% in 12 months ending March.

The Sun: monthly brand reach hit 39.7m
The Sun: monthly brand reach hit 39.7m

UK news brands saw their audiences increase significantly over the first three months of 2020 as the public scrambled to keep up to date with the fast-developing coronavirus pandemic.

Year-on-year increases in average monthly reach for the 12 months from April 2019 to March 2020 ranged from 15.8% for the Mail (with a reach of 36 million) to 87.3% for The Times, which achieved a reach of 16 million despite its paywall, according to the latest data from Pamco. 

Other titles to enjoy significant audience growth include The Independent (up 73.4%), Metro (up 63.1%) and The Guardian (up 42.7%). The Sun, meanwhile, has grown its monthly reach by 34%, overtaking the Mail as the UK’s most-read news brand. 

There are now six brands with a reach of at least 30 million – The Sun, the Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, Metro and the Mirror. The Telegraph and The Express are just below this figure.

Comparing the latest data with the figures covering January to December 2019 shows the extent to which the first three months of 2020 has driven the growth in reach for many titles, especially the four main quality titles – The Guardian, The Independent, the Telegraph and The Times.

The data will be bittersweet for publishers, which are facing a devastating collapse in advertising revenue this year in spite of the booming demand for their products. Group M’s Mid-Year Forecast, out yesterday (Tuesday), is the latest in a series of reports indicating that 2020 will be dire for news brands' commercial prospects.

Research also released yesterday by the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism also showed that public trust in the news has collapsed since last year, particularly among those identifying as politically left-leaning.

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