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August 11, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:29am

ABC figures show most regional dailies lost 10-20% of circulation in lockdown

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Manchester Evening News saw its circulation more than halve during the Covid-19 lockdown, while almost every other regional daily kept their declines under 20%.

The MEN’s apparent decline came because, in January to March, it was distributing 14,364 copies for free.

This fell to just 452 as many businesses where people could pick up the newspaper closed and people stopped travelling for work.

The MEN went from being 51% paid-for to 97% almost overnight, although paid subscribers grew slightly from 2,595 to 2,781.

The latest ABC figures show how lockdown affected the circulation of regional daily newspapers across the UK.

ABC has published two sets of figures for each newspaper: an official January to June figure and a Covid-19 figure that begins when lockdown started on 23 March and covers until 28 June.

The two figures side-by-side give some indication of the impact lockdown has had on people’s regional newspaper habits.

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Scroll down to see full ABC figures

The Express & Star in the West Midlands was the only other daily to lose more than a fifth of its circulation with a fall of 36% that can similarly be attributed in part to a drop in free copies from 6,934 to just 137.

Free newspapers were the first to fear print circulation collapse even before lockdown began as commuters began to stay at home in the week or two before Boris Johnson officially put the UK into lockdown.

Many newspaper publishers, both national and regional, launched campaigns in March offering free home delivery to encourage people to continue their newspaper habits when they could no longer pick it up in their usual ways.

Archant, Reach, JPI Media, Newsquest and Iliffe also teamed up in May for a campaign which took over their front pages to tell readers “we are there with you” (pictured, left).

Many regional news websites also reached record online audiences during this period.

The smallest change in print circulation was at JPI Media’s Portsmouth News, which lost 6% on average compared to its January to March circulation.

Last year ABC stopped publishing six-monthly reports for regional news publications and is instead putting the figures out on a rolling basis when they are made available by the publisher.

Circulation figures for JPI Media’s The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and the Belfast News Letter have yet to be published.

There will now be a wait until early next year to see circulation figures for July to December 2020 and find out how regional titles recovered as lockdown was eased.

ABC figures have already shown how print circulations slumped at national newspapers during lockdown.

Regional daily newspaper circulation January-June 2020 (ABC):

Newspaper Publisher Official ABC total Jan-June 2020 ABC Covid-19 total 23 March – 28 June % change
Aberdeen – Press & Journal DC Thomson 38,252 31,222 -18%
Express & Star (West Midlands) Midland News Association 31,477 20,293 -36%
Manchester Evening News Reach 29,613 13,993 -53%
Dundee – The Courier DC Thomson 28,985 26,829 -7%
Liverpool Echo Reach 26,600 24,340 -8%
Norwich – Eastern Daily Press Archant 21,692 18,583 -14%
Stoke Sentinel Reach 17,179 15,442 -10%
Shropshire Star Midland News Association 16,118 13,542 -16%
Newcastle Chronicle Reach 15,869 13,978 -12%
Hull Daily Mail Reach 15,856 13,559 -14%
Leicester Mercury Reach 13,867 12,316 -11%
Derby Telegraph Reach 12,769 11,373 -11%
South Wales Evening Post Reach 12,595 10,782 -14%
Teesside Gazette Reach 12,157 10,794 -11%
Birmingham Mail Reach 11,676 9,992 -14%
Southampton – Southern Daily Echo Newsquest 11,206 9,631 -14%
Portsmouth – The News JPI Media 10,879 10,269 -6%
Sheffield Star JPI Media 10,594 9,740 -8%
Plymouth Herald Reach 10,048 8,492 -15%
Cardiff – South Wales Echo Reach 9,951 8,500 -15%
York – The Press Newsquest 9,792 8,257 -16%
Nottingham Post Reach 9,719 8,409 -13%
Dundee Evening & Weekend Telegraph DC Thomson 9,648 8,994 -7%
Bournemouth – The Daily Echo Newsquest 9,589 8,405 -12%
Bristol Post Reach 9,295 7,337 -21%
The Argus Brighton Newsquest 8,948 8,280 -7%
Coventry Telegraph Reach 8,434 7,458 -12%
Leeds – Yorkshire Evening Post JPI Media 7,845 6,351 -19%
Oxford Mail Newsquest 7,465 6,692 -10%
Swindon Advertiser Newsquest 6,859 6,099 -11%
Lancashire Post JPI Media 6,544 5,907 -10%
Cambridge News Reach 5,375 4,599 -14%
Norwich – Evening News Archant 5,200 4,367 -16%
Ipswich Star Archant 4,603 3,789 -18%

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