March has little spring cheer for nationals

By Dominic Ponsford

This year’s freezing March weather may have had a chilling effect on newspaper circulations, because nearly every national newspaper was down year on year.

The red-top tabloids fared worst: the dailies were down 4.97 per cent year on year, on average, compared to 4.49 per cent last month, and the Sundays were down 7.36 per cent, compared to an average of 4.06 per cent in February.

The quality morning market continued to grow overall in March (up 0.29 per cent year on year) fuelled by the Financial Times and The Guardian.

For the first time, the FT broke down its sales by region, revealing that its 445,986 total equates to Europe 137,517; UK and Ireland 136,876; US 135,368; and Asia 36,212.

Most of the FT’s 2.8 per cent year-onyear sales rise is accounted for by an 8,000 increase in multiple give-away copies to 33,212.

The Guardian was the only other quality morning title rising — up 3.49 per cent year on year to 379,835. While The Guardian is still feeling the benefits of its Berliner-size relaunch in September, it is still a long way short of regaining the 400,000 benchmark circulation figure it enjoyed two years ago before the tabloid Times and Independent came on the scene.

The UK’s first major new national paper to be launched in 20 years, The Sportsman, will have its first official ABC sales figure next month.

But despite being launched only eight days into March, it may have already affected sales of established gambling title, the Racing Post.

The Cheltenham Festival means March is always the Post’s biggest sale and this time it sold 86,419 a day on average — down 7.6 per cent year on year.

Another reason for the Post’s sales dip year on year may be the fact that Easter, a big racing weekend, fell in March last year; and the effect of cold weather on racing.

Unofficial estimates of Sportsman sales vary from 17,000 a day to more than double that. It is understood to be doing particularly well in certain regions — Ireland, Liverpool, Newcastle and London.

The Daily Mail was the only other daily to record a year-on-year increase, up 0.6 per cent to 2,397,768 — comprehensively trouncing its midmarket rival the Daily Express, which was down 11.4 per cent to 831,923.

The Independent on Sunday and The Observer were the only two UK-wide nationals to put on sales in the Sunday market.

Increased marketing spending and the continuing popularity of its tabloid relaunch back in October helped the IoS boom 11.32 per cent year-on-year to 233,193.

Observer sales have settled down after January’s extraordinary 21 per cent year-on-year rise following its Berlinersize relaunch.

Sales in March were up a rather more sustainable 6.65 per cent year on year to 473,732.

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