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September 23, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:16am

Death of Queen sees biggest traffic surge to UK news brands since 2020 US election

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update 23/9/22: Traffic to UK national news brands rose by 53% on the day of the Queen’s death to reach almost 96 million page views.

The new Ipsos iris figures shared by news industry marketing body Newsworks also showed a total of 122 million minutes, up 42%, were spent on national news brands’ platforms on Thursday 8 September.

The % growth figures are based on the average for the day of the week since February this year.

Heightened traffic continued during the ten-day mourning period but on Monday 19 September, the day of the Queen’s state funeral, news publishers saw 87 million page views, up 31% on average, with 114 million minutes spent.

In print, circulation figures supplied by the publishers themselves to Newsworks indicate sales the day after the Queen’s death were up by between 60% and 100% compared to the previous week.

Original story 14/9/22: The death of the Queen has led to a large jump in audiences turning to established news brands, with some recording their most-read online stories ever.

More than one UK national newspaper brand saw their most traffic since the 2020 US election after the news broke at 6.30pm on Thursday.

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Not every news brand was willing to share details of audience figures, but we have compiled several interesting statistics below.

If you would like any figures from your news brand included in our story, please get in touch with charlotte.tobitt@pressgazette.co.uk.

The Guardian

Despite its republican-leaning tendencies, readers of The Guardian have still flocked to the brand and caused a “high increase” in traffic since the Queen’s death.

On Friday, the day after the Queen died aged 96, The Guardian produced the fewest print pages dedicated to the news of any UK national newspaper except the Financial Times – yet circulation was still double its usual expected sales.

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson also revealed that website traffic on Thursday peaked at more than a quarter of a million page views per minute, with almost half that audience coming to its breaking news story about the Queen’s death.

That story has become its “most read standalone news story of all time”.

The Guardian’s story of the Queen’s death became its most-read of all time

The spokesperson added: “Thursday’s audience was our biggest audience since the [2020] US election and the uplift continued over the weekend, with all our coverage on the Queen and the royal family widely and deeply read.”

The Guardian has published letters from readers criticising “its own continuous coverage” and urging it not to “join the hysteria and infantilism of the rest of the UK media”.

In 2021, Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner responded to criticism that the newspaper had too much coverage of the death of Prince Philip.

Viner told readers’ editor Elisabeth Ribbans: “We knew that other newspapers would do much more on the death of Prince Philip – and they did. We also knew that some Guardian readers would feel we did too much – which also proved true.”

She added: “Whatever the political position of the Guardian, we understand that the royal family is part of the national conversation… Whether we got the balance right this time has been a matter of lively debate among senior editors, just as it has been among readers, and that’s as it should be.”

The Telegraph

Press Gazette understands The Telegraph’s print editions have seen a significant lift in sales since Friday.

The title’s focus on subscribers appears to have paid off, with a record level of subscriber engagement recorded. It was also happy with high levels of traffic from non-subscribers.

It saw a record number of readers on its app on Thursday and recorded the most page views across its website and app since November 2020, the month of the last US election, which prompted widespread attention from audiences worldwide as Donald Trump refused to accept his loss to Joe Biden.

And more than ten million people reportedly saw Telegraph journalism on social media on Thursday.

Sky News

Sky News TV coverage reached 6.48 million people between Thursday and Sunday, with its average audience share up by 116%.

The broadcaster had the seventh biggest audience share over this period behind the five terrestrial channels and the BBC News Channel.

On Saturday between 10am and 12pm, 623,300 people tuned in to Sky News to watch Charles be formally named King at St James’s Palace, watching on average for just under an hour.

A Sky News spokesperson said: “At a defining moment for our country and the world, audiences are turning to Sky News’ trusted, impartial journalism to inform them about the Queen’s death and the ten days of mourning ahead of her funeral.”

Across Thursday to Sunday, 14.2 million unique users visited Sky News’ website and app with 9.7 million video plays including 2.6 million streams of the TV channel on the app.

Like many news brands, Sky News ran a live blog on its website for rolling news updates about the Queen and this saw five million visitors.

Across social media platforms, Sky News video content was viewed more than 150 million times between Thursday and Sunday with 48 million video views on Youtube where the Queen’s funeral will be streamed on Monday, 55 million views on Tiktok, 40 million on Twitter, and 13 million on Snapchat.

The broadcaster claimed to be the fastest-growing news account on Tiktok at present, adding more than 350,000 new followers in the past few days to reach more than 2.3 million as of Tuesday afternoon. This is up from one million in April. All of the broadcaster’s videos on Tiktok were Royal-related from the time of the announcement of the Queen’s ill health on Thursday to Sunday when it shared a clip of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Evening Standard

Between Thursday and Sunday, content about the royal family made up more than a third of total page views at the Evening Standard website.

Four of the top seven articles were related to the Queen’s death, while the five articles with the longest dwell time were all royal-related. Each had a dwell time of more than one minute and 20 seconds.

Queen death news traffic up at Evening Standard

The Evening Standard homepage on Thursday 8 September about an hour after the death of the Queen was announced

Daily Express

The Daily Express, which regularly publishes prominent coverage of the royals, saw its print circulation up by 75% on Friday compared to normal.

Express executive editor Karl Holbrook tweeted: “The rush for physical newspapers in these historic times is incredible (Daily Express sold 75% more copies on Friday than normal!) It shows the deep affection people still have… but we’ve got to support print day-to-day for it to exist on the extraordinary days.”

ITV News

ITV News said more than 50 million people had seen its video content online across all the different platforms since the announcement of the Queen’s death, alongside a “huge spike” in its written website content – particularly its explainers.

It has used livestreaming to harness a global audience, with more than ten million people seeing its Twitter live content so far including 4.5 million on Friday. It said 4.5 million people had watched its live content on Tiktok and its Royal content has been seen more than 15 million times.

The Rundown, the social media series launched by ITV News in 2019 to reach 14 to 17-year-olds, reached around two million people, mainly under-18s, in the days following the Queen’s death.

The Independent

Page views at The Independent’s website doubled on the day the Queen died compared to the previous day and stayed “significantly higher” over the following days.

Channel 4 News

As of Tuesday afternoon Channel 4 News had recorded 50 million views over the past week online, with 150 million minutes viewed, according to a spokesperson.

Their biggest social viewership hits included three million Facebook views on the Queen’s obituary, three million views to Royal content on Tiktok since the initial video breaking the news, 11 million on Youtube for Saturday’s report on Princes William and Harry reuniting at Windsor, and five million for a 22-minute obituary on Youtube.

@c4news

King Charles III has addressed the nation for the first time since his mother, #Queen Elizabeth II, passed away. #queenelizabeth #kingcharles #royalfamily #kingcharlesiii

♬ original sound – Channel 4 News

Mail+

Palace Confidential, the flagship video series at the Mail’s online paid-for brand Mail+, saw more than 1.2 million viewers to its Friday edition, according to journalist Richard Eden.

That episode, and its follow-up on Monday, were made free-to-watch. The weekly show is coming out daily this week.

Financial Times

Despite producing less royal content than other national newspapers, the FT also saw a surge in page views and subscriber engagement levels although it did not share any specific figures.

Total TV

There was a total reach across BBC and other TV channels carrying news of 33 million people between 12pm and 2am on Thursday, according to broadcast data analyst overnights.tv.

BBC One suspended its regular programming for rolling news updates at lunchtime following an update on the Queen’s health that stated that doctors were “concerned”.

A combined 16 million people were watching TV news updates when her death was announced at 6.30pm across BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News, ITV and Sky News.

Picture: Reuters/Molly Darlington

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