Media: Young readers desert newspapers

Analysis
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The Independent Culture
ANOTHER MONTH, another set of depressing circulation figures for the national press. Every single daily newspaper, with the exception of one, lost sales in November compared with October.

The only paper to buck the trend was The Guardian, which increased sales by an average of just 800 copies a day - and that was largely due to increasing the number of papers they ship overseas (a tactic employed by most newspapers). Every copy sent, rather than sold, to other countries counts against circulation.

The Independent's sale actually increased month on month, but some 4,000 copies came off the paper's bulk order.

Making a year-on-year comparison doesn't make things much healthier. The total daily newspaper market is selling 152,000 copies a day fewer than it did last November. Only three daily papers have increased sales year on year, and one of those, the Financial Times, has done all of that overseas.

Particularly hard hit has been The Times, which has raised its price to 30p every day of the week. It has lost 53,000 buyers compared to last year. Also down by 53,000 is The Daily Telegraph, which last year worked hard on its subscriptions with a voucher giveaway and cross-promotion of the Sunday Telegraph.

The Sun, too, has had a bad month. It lost 59,000 copies compared with October, when it lost 12,000. David Yelland has been unable to stem the paper's sales decline during his first six months in charge. The paper lost 100,000 readers compared with the same six months last year. The rate of decline has slowed slightly, however, to 2.65 per cent.

In the Sunday market, only the Independent on Sunday, which reduced its price for one day, has risen month on month, by 1,500 copies a day - and compared to last November, every Sunday paper's circulation is down. In all, the Sunday market sold a staggering 773,000 fewer papers on Sundays in November than they did last year.

"Newspapers are a long-term declining market," says Laura James, head of press for New PHD, a media buying agency. She believes the long-term consequence of such decline will mean that it becomes impossible for advertisers to hit large numbers of people quickly.

"We have not hit the crisis yet," she says. "But already advertisers are having to find more specialist areas to get coverage of their target audience to go up." This accounts for the growth in the magazine market and radio, as advertisers look for other ways to get their message in front of people.

Particularly problematic is the disappearance of the 15-to-24-year-old reader. They are the fastest-disappearing demographic group, and they should be the future market for newspapers.

"They are getting their news from other sources, and the role of newspapers in their life is changing," says Ms James. "Instead of religiously buying the same newspaper every day for news, we are seeing a generation who decide to buy a newspaper on a Monday for sport, and who will then not buy a newspaper all week until Saturday, when they may very well buy a different newspaper for its magazine section and television listings."

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