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September 29, 2023

Mail and Sun in dead heat for title of most-read UK commercial newsbrand

Pamco data puts The Sun on top for daily and weekly figures but the Mail claims the monthly win.

By Charlotte Tobitt

New print and online readership data from audience measurement body Pamco suggests the Mail and Sun brands can both stake claim to the title of the UK’s most-read commercial newsbrand.

Pamco data puts the Mail top for total print and digital monthly brand reach. But The Sun takes the number one spot in the daily and weekly audience rankings.

In print, News UK red-top The Sun leads the weekday, six-day and Sunday market but the Daily Mail wins on Saturdays when it publishes the most-read newspaper edition of the week.

Pamco, otherwise known as the Publishers Audience Measurement Company, no longer releases figures by brand but publishers share them with advertising partners. Press Gazette has seen a selective sample of some of the top-level brand data.

The new H1 2023 data covers the period of June 2021 to June 2023 for print data combined with June 2023 Ipsos iris digital figures and an annual survey of 22,000 participants.

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The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Mail Online had an estimated monthly reach of 27.3 million in the period compared (or 50.4% of the adult population) with The Sun on 27.2 million (50.2% of the UK). Statistically speaking this puts the two titles in a dead heat within the margin of error of the survey.

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Mail Metro Media chief revenue officer Dominic Williams said the latest Pamco data demonstrated the “unrivalled popularity of the Mail newsbrand amongst Brits”.

The Sun’s combined print and digital titles had a weekly total brand reach of 18.7 million and a daily reach of 7.3 million.

The pair’s nearest competitor in third place, as seen by Press Gazette in anonymised data, had a monthly reach of 24.5 million, or 45.2% of the adult population.

Demonstrating how tight the race is between The Sun and Mail Online, Ipsos iris data shows that the Mail was on top for monthly digital audience in May, June - the month included in the Pamco data - and August but The Sun was top in July.

Before May, The Sun beat Mail Online for monthly online audience at least as far back as December 2021, when Press Gazette started monitoring Ipsos iris data. Ipsos iris published its first full data set as the industry-recognised provider that year.

Referring to August's figures, Mail Online publisher and editor Danny Groom said: “Reclaiming the top spot on Ipsos iris’ monthly report reflects the increased quantity and quality of our content across multiple platforms.

"We continue to maximise our unrivalled products for our existing loyal customers, simultaneously attracting new customers, and will keep innovating in this ever-changing digital landscape."

Mail Online beats The Sun for time spent by readers online

The Mail was also top for time spent across its digital platforms, on 1.94 billion minutes each month - 859 million ahead of its closest competitor which Press Gazette understands is not The Sun by this metric.

August online data from Ipsos iris showed Mail Online on 1.8 billion minutes that month, behind only the BBC on 10 billion and ahead of The Guardian on 1.1 billion. The Sun was in seventh place by this metric with 453.4 million minutes spent.

The Sun noted in a statement that declining traffic referrals from Facebook have proved "an ongoing issue for the industry impacting digital audiences, and, because of a market-leading off-platform audience strategy, third-party platform algorithm changes can have a disproportionate impact".

Pamco itself noted that changes to the Facebook algorithm "have been identified as a notable factor impacting digital audiences across the published media sector".

The Sun spokesperson continued: "The industry is going through a period of unprecedented volatility and its inevitable publishers will experience audience fluctuation. To illustrate this, the digital numbers used for this Pamco release were taken from June but by July The Sun had regained our number one position in terms of digital audience reach, per Ipsos. 

"These market conditions make it clearer than ever that there should no longer be a focus on month for month comparisons, which is why in recent years we have been focused on our long term sustainability as a digital business both here and abroad."

The Sun is still most-read print newspaper

In print alone The Sun is number one, reaching 6.1 million readers per month, 4.8 million each week and 2.4 million every day according to the Pamco data.

As a result The Sun leads the weekday, six-day and Sunday print markets for average issue readership - but the Daily Mail Saturday is the biggest single newspaper product of any day of the week with an average readership of 2.9 million.

This also means the Daily Mail Saturday's Weekend is the most-read weekend supplement on 2.3 million, while the Mail on Sunday's You magazine is the most-read Sunday supplement on 1.4 million.

Pamco said in a note alongside the data release that print readership "remains resilient" when compared period-on-period.

The Sun no longer publishes monthly ABC data publicly but the Mail titles do. In August, the Daily Mail had an average daily circulation of 740,669 while the Mail on Sunday was on 633,086.

The last audited ABC figure for The Sun was 1,210,915 in March 2020 while The Sun on Sunday was on 1,013,777. At the time the Sun titles were ahead of the Daily Mail on 1,132,908 and Mail on Sunday on 952,914.

ABC figures are lower because they measure circulation, including newsstand sales, subscriptions and the number of copies distributed in bulk to locations like airports and hotels, whereas Pamco measures average issue readership indicating the number of people who have "read or looked at" a title in its publication interval - for example, the past day for a daily title or past week for a Sunday edition.

Overall the new Pamco data showed that across 92 print and 85 digital brands, 46.1 million people read newsbrands each month and 39.1 million access magazine brands, making a total UK monthly market of 48.6 million people.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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