Media Analysis: October takes its toll

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The Independent Culture
A GLANCE at October's circulation figures for the national press reveals the harsh truth: it's going to be a long, hard winter.

In October 1998 every single daily newspaper, with the exception of The Independent and the Financial Times lost sales compared with the month before.

In a number of key cases, what seems to have happened is that September was so strongly supported with marketing and price promotions - to kick start the autumn sales period - that the October figures just could not compare. The Daily Mail in particular, which lost 33,000 sales last month, promoted heavily in September. It advertised its Lucky Wallets game every weekend in September. The Friday night TV advertisements, combined with the game, lifted sales by around 250,000 every Saturday; that figure then fell back each day until the next ad the following week.

The Mail also went on television to promote its "Queen Mother partwork" in September. By comparison, the Mail was much quieter in October.

The Mirror, too, was energetic in September, selling for only 20p one Saturday and 10p on another. Selling at 10p lifts sales by around 470,000 for The Mirror on a Saturday which, averaged out across the month, adds an average 20,000 to the daily figures. The Mirror's sales are down month on month by around double that, which must be disappointing, because The Mirror did promote a game in September. Its Lucky Bags promotion started on 17 October, yet sales are down month on month by 41,000 at 2.33m.

In September, The Sun advertised its Richard Branson autobiography on television, tied up with ITV's Chris Tarrant gameshow, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It also sold for a week at 20p in the Granada region, and went for a day at 10p in Scotland. Again, this made it much busier in September than October, meaning that sales have fallen by 11,000. Despite falling by almost four times as much as The Sun, The Mirror's market share went up while the Sun's fell.

The Sun is also 30,000 below what it was in October last year. The Mirror is 38,000 up year on year.

The longest faces in the popular market must be at The Express. Last month, circulation fell by 2.5 per cent, or 28,000. It also dropped 7.5 points in market share. Apparently, its proportion of young readers is growing, but it must grow faster if the readers who do not like the changes depart at this pace.

The Express is selling 1,118,981, but 60,000 of that is bulks and 20,000 overseas. If these sales are taken out of the headline circulation, The Express looks perilously close to the crucial 1m mark.

The Independent's sales increase amounts to an average of 610 copies a day. But against the background of a 21,000 loss for The Telegraph, a 10,000 loss for The Times and 6,000 at The Guardian, standing still can be seen as an achievement.

The major broadsheet promotions in September were an Easyjet tie-in from The Times and a Telegraph offer of 50 per cent off at selected hotels.

The Independent ran a shorter burst of promotions with a Eurostar giveaway, and The Guardian promoted a 50 per cent ticket offer with Air France. The Guardian also produced some TV commercials at the end of the month, offering a free magazine with the paper.