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February 24, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:03am

ABCs: UK local newspaper sales hard-hit by pandemic with dailies down by average of 18%

By Charlotte Tobitt and Aisha Majid

The UK’s regional print daily newspapers saw their circulations fall by an average of 18% in the second half of 2020.

Non-dailies audited by ABC saw average circulation declines of 21%, according to Press Gazette’s analysis.

Online regional press readership is growing fast, but no longer audited by ABC.

The following tables show the Manchester Evening News saw its circulation fall year-on-year by 46% between July and December as it went from giving out 14,890 free copies in 2019 to just 3,062 on average because of the pandemic.

Looking only at its paid-for figures, the MEN’s year-on-year decline was 15% to 13,723.

Scroll down for full lists of ABC data for regional dailies and non-dailies, and select online audience figures

Otherwise, the hardest-hit dailies were the Express & Star in the Midlands which saw its circulation fall by 40% to 20,025, The Scotsman which fell by 28% to 10,437, and The Post which was down by 25% to 7,292.

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The biggest regional newspaper in the UK remains the Aberdeen Press & Journal with an average circulation of 33,194 following a year-on-year decline of 16%.

They are followed by the Belfast-based Irish News on 28,353, which was down 9% year-on-year.

The smallest circulation decline seen by any daily paper was a drop of 8% at The Argus in Brighton, followed by The Courier in Dundee and the Belfast News Letter which fell by 12% each.

[Read more: ABC figures for first half of 2020 show most regional dailies lost 10-20% of circulation in lockdown]

Only a small number of Newsquest newspapers appear in the tables as the publisher pulled most of its titles from the auditor in 2019. The Daily Echo titles, Oxford Mail, Swindon Advertiser, Brighton Argus and York Press are the only ones with circulations that remain public.

There is no year-on-year change data for JPI Media’s non-daily titles as its 2019 figures are not available on ABC.

The worst-hit titles of those with figures available were the Nuneaton News, down 81% year-on-year to 3,053, and the free Chronicle and Informer which was down 56% to 7,439.

Seven non-daily titles grew their circulation in the second half of 2020, led by Archant’s Hackney Gazette which was up by 12% to 1,560 and Reach’s MEN on Sunday which was up by 9% to 5,829.

Online figures

Most regional publishers have stopped reporting online figures through ABC in recent years, but some have shared select recent data on request from Press Gazette

Reach, the biggest local publisher in the UK, said its regional network reached 38.7m adults in the UK in January, with visitor growth of 16% year-on-year, according to Comscore.

Newsquest said its websites attracted 45.6m unique visitors in January, up 32.9% year-on-year, generating 260m page views – an average of 5.7 pages per reader.

The publisher, which rolled out digital paywalls and subscriptions on 70 of its larger sites from April last year, said its monthly unique visitors were up 40.1% in the second half of 2020 with an average of 41.5m per month.

Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker said: “We’re particularly encouraged by the growth in Newsquest’s digital subscription business which is substantially ahead of expectations, and our new paywalls have had no significant constraint on the ongoing traffic growth we are seeing.”

Archant said its news titles had collectively grown their average monthly unique visitors from 7.1m in the second half of 2019 to 8.2m in the same period in 2020, growth of 15%.

Its total page views grew by 13% year-on-year from 32m to 36.4m.

Flagship titles the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times grew by 22% to 2.1m monthly unique visitors and 42% to 1.1m respectively.

The Great Yarmouth Mercury grew its unique visitors by 30% year-on-year to 260,000 while the Hunts Post was up 32% to 142,000 per month.

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