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June 17, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:24am

Covid-19 prompts record digital audience for UK national press with 6.6m extra daily readers

By Freddy Mayhew

National newspaper brands added 6.6m daily digital readers in the UK in the first quarter of this year, reaching a record audience, according to industry data revealed today.

The Sun was the most-read UK newspaper brand in the first quarter of this year according to industry data, but The Guardian was the fastest growing of the leading national press brands.

The latest readership estimates from Pamco cover the first quarter of this year and are based on survey data for a rolling 12-month period to estimate print readership, which is combined with Comscore data for the month of March. The Pamco figures only show UK readers.

Nearly all newsbrands saw an uplift in monthly brand reach in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the final quarter of last year.

The Scotsman’s total brand reach grew by 85% on the previous quarter, with double-digit growth across nearly all titles.

The Daily Star and The Guardian were the other big winners, growing their total monthly brand reach by 56% and 47% respectively.

The uplift came from digital as print reach fell across all titles, except one.

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Only the Yorkshire Post bucked the trend with its total brand reach down 25% on the last quarter – an uptick in print reach failing to offset more severe drops in mobile, tablet and desktop reach.

The Sun has the largest monthly brand reach of any UK newsbrand at 39.8m, followed by The Mail at 36m and The Guardian at 35.6m.

According to News UK, The Sun’s app read is now read fror 8.3 minutes longer per user than a year ago and improving its minutes per active user by 66.6% YoY to 20.8 minutes.

The Times and The Sunday Times app is read for 33 minutes per active user.

News UK chief operating officer David Dinsmore said: “In times of uncertainty, and of world-wide importance, readers have once again turned to trusted newsbrands, which are being consumed and read by more readers than ever before.

“At News UK our titles have been fuelled by digital growth and deeper engagement with our content. But looking ahead we are also growing our home news delivery operation as part of the 260,000 new industry HND orders through the Deliver My Newspaper website alongside our digital growth story.”

The Guardian celebrated its position as the most-read newspaper at the broadsheet end of the market and the third most-read national newspaper title on a monthly basis overall in the UK.

On average digital readers spend 31 minutes per month with Guardian journalism, the title said.

Guardian News and Media editor Katherine Viner said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has consistently published the most impactful investigations, news and analysis, holding the government to account.

“We now have a record number of people coming to the Guardian and choosing to support us financially and it’s clear from this data that Guardian journalism is increasingly in demand, trusted and valued.”

The Pamco figures cover print, mobile, tablet and desktop reach. The FT chooses not to be audited by Pamco.

Pamco replaced the UK National Readership Survey in 2018 as the industry standard audience measurement for news publishers.

Pamco total UK newsbrand reach, comparing figures for the year to March 2020 with figures for the year to December 2019:

Newsbrand (inc. all print and digital titles) Total monthly brand reach Q1-2020 (000) Total monthly brand reach Q4-2019 (000) % change
Sun 39,792 37,098 7%
The Mail 36,035 28,552 26%
The Guardian 35,592 24,273 47%
Independent 33,777 24,566 37%
32,277 27,844 16%
Mirror 31,732 29,365 8%
Express 29,685 22,321 33%
The Telegraph 29,126 21,669 34%
Evening Standard FREE 20,387 15,283 33%
The Times 16,025 11,503 39%
Daily Star 12,034 7,718 56%
i 8,680 7,695 13%
Daily Record 7,118 5,855 22%
The Scotsman 5,862 3,165 85%
The Herald 1,862 1,442 29%
The Yorkshire Post 1,332 1,768 -25%

National newsbrand readership surges by 6.6m per day

According to trade association Newsworks, the digital audience for the UK national press grew by 6.6m per day in the latest figures, up 35% year-on-year to 25m.

The major national and regional UK newspaper titles are now reckoned to reach 49m people per month according to the Pamco figures. According to Newsworks that is more than Facebook and Google.

Tracy De Groose, executive chairman of Newsworks, said: “As the global pandemic took hold at the beginning of the year millions more readers turned to sources of news, analysis and information they knew they could trust.

“And encouragingly for our news brands and our journalism this was at a more frequent rate than ever before. All the indications suggest that this more regular daily demand for high quality journalism has continued into the second quarter of the year.”

Titles which have combined to sell advertising via the Ozone project –  which include The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Express and The Sun – are now said to reach 42m per month.

Ozone chief executive Damon Reeve said: “The importance of trusted, premium environments for readers is reflected in the latest Pamco results. This incredible growth from both an industry and individual title perspective has a huge impact on an alliance like Ozone when reaching audiences for advertisers across premium publishers.

“The scale of Ozone – equivalent to that of the major tech platforms – means that almost nine in 10 of our monthly readers will now visit one of our sites on a weekly basis, with six in 10 visiting daily.”

Pamco newsbrand readership estimates for Q1 2020:

Monthly (000s) YoY  change Weekly (000s) YoY  change Daily (000s) YoY  change
% (000s) % (000s) % (000s)
News Sector* 49,187 2% 1024 48,014 7% 2998 39,614 23% 7410
National Newsbrands 47,562 7% 2915 44,989 10% 4013 30,708 18% 4592
National news brands Digital 42,387 14% 5295 39,654 21% 6820 25,213 35% 6594
National news brands Print 24,344 -7% -1891 19,598 -9% -1878 10,278 -11% -1215
The Ozone Project (2nd PAMCO data release) 42,141 37,185 25,059
Facebook (inc. whatsapp, facebook, instagram) 43,961 4% 1593 41,456 5% 2153 32,173 9% 2626
Google 39,495 -2% -964 34,685 -5% -1946 25,449 3% 738

*The 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.

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