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August 13, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:31am

ABCs: Regional daily newspapers see average 18% circulation decline in a year

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Irish News and Shropshire Star were the only ABC-audited UK regional daily newspapers to beat their sales from the first Covid-19 lockdown in the first half of this year.

Meanwhile every one of the 40 ABC-audited titles have dropped at least 11% of their circulations compared to January to March 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK. The average decline was of 18%.

Last year ABC published two sets of figures for each newspaper for the first half of the year: an official January to June figure and a Covid-19 figure covering from the start of lockdown on 23 March until 28 June. This means it is now possible to compare circulations from before and after the UK’s first strict lockdown.

DC Thomson’s Aberdeen Press & Journal remains the UK’s top-selling regional newspaper with a circulation of 31,629 following a 17% decline since the start of 2020.

Second is the Irish News, which fell by 11% to 28,014. JPI’s Shropshire Star also fell by 11% to 9,706. Both were the only two titles to have returned their circulations above where they were in last spring’s lockdown period.

Scroll down or click here to see full ABC figures

Reach’s Manchester Evening News was also above its March to June 2020 circulation but this was because it had restarted distributing free copies to businesses. Its most recent figure of 8,968 compares to 14,364 at the start of 2020 and 452 in the first lockdown when the stay-at-home order removed opportunities for casual pick-ups. The MEN’s subscriptions and newsstand sales were this year down compared to the first lockdown.

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The biggest circulation decline was at the Express & Star in the West Midlands, which went from 31,477 at the start of 2020 to 19,683 in the first six months of this year. This includes a decline in free distribution from 6,934 to 934.

The second steepest drop was at Reach’s Bristol Post which fell by 26% from 9,295 at the start of last year to 7,337 in the first lockdown and 6,833 in the first half of this year.

Figures for the first half of 2020 at the Yorkshire Post, Scotsman and Belfast News Letter were unavailable.

Many regional news websites reported record online traffic highs last year as people searched for reliable Covid-19 news and information.

Even since then Reach, the UK’s largest regional news publisher, grew page views by 1% in the first half of this year, while loyal users were up 30%. All the major regional publishers are currently investing in digital journalist jobs to continue this push.

As with other sectors, not all UK regional dailies are audited by ABC.

ABC totals and % change for the first half of 2020 to 2021:

Newspaper Owner Official ABC total Jan-June 2021 Official ABC total Jan-June 2020 ABC Covid-19 total 23 March – 28 June % change from official Jan-June 2020 total
Aberdeen - Press & Journal Aberdeen Journals Ltd           31,629           38,252           31,222 -17
Irish News Irish News Ltd           28,014           31,613           27,487 -11
Dundee - The Courier DC Thomson Media           25,235           28,985           26,829 -13
Manchester Evening News Reach Regionals Limited           22,107           29,613           13,993 -25
Liverpool Echo Reach Regionals Limited           22,069           26,600           24,340 -17
Express & Star (West Midlands) Express & Star Ltd           19,683           31,477           20,293 -37
Norwich - Eastern Daily Press Archant Ltd           18,445           21,692           18,583 -15
Leeds - Yorkshire Post JPIMedia Limited           14,440  N/A  N/A
The Sentinel Reach Regionals Limited           14,351           17,179           15,442 -16
Shropshire Star Express & Star Ltd           13,669           16,118           13,542 -15
Aberdeen - Evening Express Aberdeen Journals Ltd           13,507           16,098           14,627 -16
Newcastle Chronicle Reach Regionals Limited           12,914           15,869           13,978 -19
Hull Daily Mail Reach Regionals Limited           12,798           15,856           13,559 -19
Leicester Mercury Reach Regionals Limited           11,409           13,867           12,316 -18
Derby Telegraph Reach Regionals Limited           10,583           12,769           11,373 -17
South Wales Evening Post Reach Regionals Limited           10,464           12,595           10,782 -17
Teesside Gazette Reach Regionals Limited           10,040           12,157           10,794 -17
The Scotsman JPIMedia Limited           10,021  N/A  N/A
Portsmouth - News & Sports Mail JPIMedia Limited             9,706           10,879           10,269 -11
News Letter JPIMedia Limited             9,505  N/A  N/A
Ipswich - East Anglian Daily Times Archant Ltd             9,276           10,938             9,377 -15
Birmingham Mail Reach Regionals Limited             9,226           11,676             9,992 -21
Southampton - Southern Daily Echo Newsquest Media Group             9,026           11,206             9,631 -19
Sheffield Star JPIMedia Limited             8,624           10,594             9,740 -19
Cardiff - South Wales Echo Reach Regionals Limited             8,274             9,951             8,500 -17
Dundee Evening & Weekend Telegraph DC Thomson Media             8,160             9,648             8,994 -15
Bournemouth - The Daily Echo Newsquest Media Group             7,989             9,589             8,405 -17
Plymouth - The Herald Reach Regionals Limited             7,903           10,048             8,492 -21
The Argus Brighton Newsquest Media Group             7,886             8,948             8,280 -12
Nottingham Post Reach Regionals Limited             7,806             9,719             8,409 -20
York - The Press Newsquest Media Group             7,773             9,792             8,257 -21
Bristol Post Reach Regionals Limited             6,833             9,295             7,337 -26
Coventry Telegraph Reach Regionals Limited             6,714             8,434             7,458 -20
Oxford Mail Newsquest Media Group             6,377             7,465             6,692 -15
Leeds - Yorkshire Evening Post JPIMedia Limited             5,926             7,845             6,351 -25
Swindon Advertiser Newsquest Media Group             5,474             6,859             6,099 -20
Lancashire Post JPIMedia Limited             5,345             6,544             5,907 -18
Norwich - Evening News Archant Ltd             4,273             5,200             4,367 -18
Cambridge News Reach Regionals Limited             4,202             5,375             4,599 -22
Ipswich Star Archant Ltd             3,716             4,603             3,789 -19
Paisley Daily Express Media Scotland Ltd             3,320             3,802             3,382 -13

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