Decline of red-tops

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The Independent Online
EVEN Britain's number one newspaper, the Sun, has not been exempt from the long-term decline in red-top tabloid sales as the nation's tastes change.

Most worrying for its proprietor Rupert Murdoch, the Sun's slide has been quicker than the Mirror's. Whereas the Sun's sales are down nearly 6 per cent year-on-year, the Mirror has lost 3 per cent of its circulation, according to April's figures.

The Mirror sells around 1.3 million fewer copies than the Sun but its slower rate of decline will rile the News International top brass, especially with former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie and ex-Sun showbiz columnist Piers Morgan at the helm of the Mirror. Two months ago, the Sun began a widespread advertising campaign branding itself as "Dedicated to the People of Britain".

The slow decline in tabloid sales its not new. Last month, the three mass-market tabloids collectively sold 6.6 million copies. Ten years ago it was 8.2 million and 15 years ago these titles together sold 8,990,468.

The beneficiaries of the tabloid defectors are the mid-market and even broadsheet newspapers. The Daily Mail's circulation is over 2.2 million, 6 per cent higher than last year and within 20,000 copies a day of overtaking the Mirror.

The newspaper industry believes that a better-educated and more affluent population has been trading up its daily tastes. In an attempt to stem the flow, the red-tops have been trying to drag themselves upmarket: the Mirror now runs business pages and the Sun is debating whether to drop its topless page three girls.