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  2. Audience Data
September 16, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:35am

Pamco: UK national news websites see Covid-19 audience fatigue but strong year-on-year growth continues

By Charlotte Tobitt

National newspaper brands lost 3m daily digital readers in the second quarter of 2020 after interest in Covid-19 news spiked in March.

But combined print and digital audiences still continued to grow at a rate of 20% year-on-year.

The latest Pamco data shows 22m people were reading national news online every day in June, up 3.7m compared to the same period in 2019.

Trade association Newsworks said the 20% year on year growth showed “the public’s ongoing demand for trusted news amidst a global coronavirus pandemic, a rise in disinformation and attacks on free speech”.

The latest readership estimates combine Comscore digital data for June 2020 with print data for April 2019 to March 2020. The print data used is the same as the previous Pamco release as the Covid-19 lockdown halted the face-to-face interviewing that is normally held as part of the survey.

Overall, national news readership is estimated at 28m daily readers across print and digital, reaching 43m people per week and 46m per month.

The figures do show a dip from the first quarter of 2020, from 25m daily digital readers to 22m.

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But this is likely to be because of a major spike in readership at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March.

Comscore online readership figures for June, the latest available which are those used in the latest Pamco estimates, indicate online readers dipped as Covid-19 reader fatigue hit but that they still stayed engaged above 2019 levels.

UK national newsbrand online readership for June 2020 (Comscore):

NB: Digital readership for the Telegraph and the i have been underreported due to a Comscore tagging issue. The FT chooses not to be audited by Pamco.

Newsbrand Phone (000) Tablet (000) Desktop (000) Total (not deduped) (000) % change from March 2020
Sun 30182 3309 3598 37089 -12%
The Mail 27852 2457 4165 34474 -9%
Mirror 26602 3105 2681 32388 -1%
The Guardian 23499 2502 6339 32340 -16%
Independent 23841 2272 4490 30603 -19%
Express 23310 2380 3861 29551 -8%
Metro 18457 1799 2252 22508 -27%
The Telegraph* 16827 2060 1836 20723 -34%
Evening Standard 13433 1754 1707 16894 -16%
The Times 10870 1650 988 13508 -9%
Daily Star 10940 805 540 12285 7%
Daily Record 6155 605 390 7150 5%
The Scotsman 3332 303 434 4069 -32%
i* 3230 389 379 3998 -52%
The Yorkshire Post 1416 142 90 1648 46%
The Herald 1168 131 177 1476 -14%

Jo Allan, managing director at Newsworks, said: “At a time of national crisis and during the height of lockdown people needed reassurance, clarity and information they knew they could trust.

“With that came an unprecedented surge on top of the already strong growth in readership our news brands were experiencing. To have attracted nearly 4m more daily readers across our national digital titles over the last year is phenomenal.”

The Times saw the biggest year-on-year growth in its total monthly brand reach of 74%, followed by the Daily Star which was up 47%.

The Sun remains the most-read UK newspaper brand with a monthly brand reach of 36.5m, followed by The Mail at 34.2m and The Mirror at 31.7m.

The Sun also has the biggest brand reach on the phone, tablet and print platforms. The Guardian is the biggest on desktop.

The year-on-year growth across the sector came solely from digital as print reach fell at every title.

The Yorkshire Post, Daily Record and Daily Star websites were the only major UK national newspaper websites to continue growing their online audiences after the peak of interest in Covid-19 news in March.

The Comscore figures show every other UK national news website lost a fifth of their monthly online audience between March and June.

The Yorkshire Post was the only newsbrand that saw severe drops in mobile, tablet and desktop reach in March – but subsequently made up for it by growing 46% in three months.

The Daily Star grew its monthly digital audience by 7% while the Mirror, its sister title at Reach, saw decline of only 1%.

Excluding the Telegraph and the i websites, as their June figures were underreported due to a tagging issue, the titles with the biggest digital drops between March and June were The Scotsman (-32%) and Metro (-27%).

Pamco UK national newsbrands’ total monthly brand reach for Q2 2020 (including June 2020 Comscore data):

NB: Digital readership for the Telegraph and the i have been underreported due to a Comscore tagging issue. The FT chooses not to be audited by Pamco.

Newsbrand (inc. all print and digital titles) Total monthly brand reach Q2-2020 (000) Total monthly brand reach Q1-2020 (000) Period % change Year % change
Sun 36502 39792 -8% 11%
The Mail 34231 36035 -5% 35%
Mirror 31737 31732 0% 16%
The Guardian 29215 35592 -18% 22%
Independent 28225 33777 -16% 23%
Express 28169 29685 -5% 14%
Metro FREE 25751 32277 -20% 4%
The Telegraph* 20915 29126 -28%* -3%*
Evening Standard FREE 17647 20387 -13% 11%
The Times 14975 16025 -7% 74%
Daily Star 12903 12034 7% 47%
Daily Record 7503 7118 5% 30%
i* 4901 8680 -44%* 25%*
The Scotsman 4086 5862 -30% 36%
The Yorkshire Post 1847 1332 39% 52%
The Herald 1635 1862 -12% 23%
Pamco newsbrand readership estimates for Q2 2020:
Monthly (000s) YoY  change Weekly (000s) YoY  change Daily (000s) YoY  change
% (000s) % (000s) % (000s)
News sector* ** 49,123 1% 725 47,484 5% 2,366 37,819 18% 5,696
National news brands* 46,431 3% 1,340 43,016 4% 1,796 28,138 9% 2,258
National news brands digital 40,735 7% 2,549 37,078 10% 3,463 22,318 20% 3,694
National news brands print* 24,344 -6% -1,423 19,598 -6% -1,330 10,278 -8% -860
Facebook (inc. Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram) 44,346 5% 1,950 42,708 10% 3,837 38,100 35% 9,816
Google 39,412 -4% -1,756 34,334 -8% -3,022 25,133 0% -56

*Print audience estimates used are the same as in the previous Pamco release as face-to-face interviewing was stopped because of Covid-19 on 17 March. The print figures are fused with the latest Comscore data for June.

** News sector comprises the following titles:

Daily Star, Evening Standard, Daily Express, i, The Independent, Daily Mail, Metro, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, Sunday People, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Observer, Sunday Express, Sun on Sunday, Daily Star Sunday, Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday, The Herald, The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post, Daily Record, Birmingham Mail, Bristol Post, Burton Mail, Cambridge Evening News, Coventry Telegraph, Daily Post, Derby Telegraph, Grimsby Telegraph, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Hull Daily Mail, Leicester Mercury, Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News, Newcastle Journal, Nottingham Post, Shropshire Star, South Wales Echo, South Wales Evening Post, Stoke The Sentinel, The Chronicle, The Gazette, The Herald, Western Mail, West Midlands Express & Star, Western Daily Press & Western Morning News, Lancashire Evening Post, The Daily Echo – Bournemouth, The Star (Sheffield, Doncaster), Portsmouth News and Sports, Oxford Mail, Southern Daily Echo, Swindon Advertiser, The Argus – Brighton and York – The Press.

Picture: Reuters/Andrew Winning  

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