The rise of digital news is only marginally counteracting the growing concentration of ownership in the UK’s newspaper industry, a Press Gazette analysis of the latest data has found.
Digital native news brands have yet to overhaul legacy media and broadcast brands, which make up 17 of the UK’s top 20 digital news publishers.
Nonetheless, the ownership of digital news media remains markedly less concentrated than the newspaper industry.
Three billionaire families – the Murdochs, Rothermeres and Barclays – control an estimated 68% of national newspaper circulation. This estimate is based on imputed values for News UK, JPIMedia, City A.M. and Telegraph Media Group publications, as the four publishers have stopped reporting their circulation figures.
The top three companies, meanwhile, control an estimated 80% of national print circulation. This is a substantial increase in ownership concentration since 2015, when the share of the top three publishers stood at 71%.
Family ownership is also common in the magazine sector. The Bauer, Hearst and Burda families own the three largest publishers in the industry, controlling an estimated 31% of magazine circulation.
There have been some moves towards a greater involvement for institutional investors. For instance, in 2018 Dennis Publishing, owner of The Week, was bought by Exponent Private Equity.
In contrast to the newspaper industry, however, charitable owners are prominent among magazine proprietors. Magazines owned by the RSPB, National Trust and Royal Horticultural Society control a combined circulation of over 3.7 million, or 11% of all circulation.
Family ownership is less common among online news publishers, although the Rothermeres, Murdochs and Lebedevs still control three of the top five digital news publishers.
Reach’s relative success online is also reflected in PAMCO’s brand reach data, which shows that Reach’s national news brands had the greatest digital brand reach of any legacy print publisher, reaching 31 million people per week compared to News UK’s 25 million.
Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls