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 converted.
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 again.
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