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September 20, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:37am

Guardian joins News UK and Telegraph in making declining print circulation secret

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Guardian has decided to make its print circulation figures private and put more focus on metrics that reflect its “diversity of journalism, readership and business strategy”.

The Guardian and Observer newspapers will continue to be audited by industry data organisation ABC but the figures will be kept private, accessible only to ad agencies.

The publisher insisted it still has a “long-standing commitment to print”.

The decision follows in the footsteps of the Telegraph and News UK’s Sun and Times opting out of making their ABC data public last year.

In May last year ABC stopped producing monthly national newspaper reports and allowed publishers to take their figures private, citing “publisher concerns that monthly ABC circulation reports provide a stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline”.

In July, the last available, The Guardian sold an average of 105,134 copies each day – comprising 53,902 newsstand sales and 51,232 subscriptions. This compares to 248,775 per day ten years earlier.

The move comes as the Guardian closed its existing Saturday supplements including Weekend and The Guide to launch a new magazine edited by Merope Mills on Saturday (25 September). This is despite the fact the Saturday edition is by far its most-read with 208,397 copies on average each week in July compared to 84,483 on weekdays.

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Sister title the Observer sold 136,656 copies in July, less than half its 288,842 average in July 2011. In July it reported 98,689 newsstand sales and 37,967 subscriptions.

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According to SimilarWeb, the Guardian was the third most popular news website in the UK in July on 129m monthly visits, versus the Mail on 157m and the BBC on 747m.

The latest Comscore data puts the Guardian in third place among UK news brands (not including broadcasters) with 3.5m readers per day versus the Sun on 3.7m and Mail Online on 4.1m.

More than two-thirds of its digital readers now come from outside the UK, as does over more than half of its digital reader revenue.

[Read more: Guardian digital reader revenue climbs during pandemic year with half from outside UK]

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson told Press Gazette: “Record numbers of people around the world are accessing Guardian and Observer journalism through our website, app, podcasts, videos, newspapers and weekly magazine – with more than two thirds of our digital readers coming from outside the UK.

“We have therefore taken the decision to be privately audited by the ABC, effective from August 2021’s monthly report, and to focus on metrics which more accurately reflect our diversity of journalism, readership and business strategy.

“In line with other UK news publishers, we remain members of the ABC with circulation figures still available to agencies. GNM has a long-standing commitment to print and it continues to form a critical part of our business.”

The Guardian’s opt-out means DMG Media’s Mail and i titles, Reach’s Mirror, Express, Star and Sunday People titles, and the Financial Times are the only paid-for national newspapers still publishing their monthly circulation figures through ABC.

Free titles Metro and Evening Standard also share their distribution metrics.

[Read more: National press ABCs: Bulks help the FT and i to keep circulations up in July 2021]

The Telegraph opted out of ABC at the start of 2020 when it said print circulation was no longer a “key metric” as it focused on its subscriber-first strategy. It instead publishes its core subscriber figures each month.

News UK said it preferred to focus on the quarterly total brand reach figure provided by audience measurement company Pamco.

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