Analysis: It never rains but it pours...

GLASWEGIANS BELIEVE that it rains all over the world during the second two weeks of July because that is the date of the annual "fair fortnight" - when the whole city traditionally went on holiday. Looking at July's ABC figures, "It always rains for the fair" seems to be a publishing truth almost as much as a Glasgow legend.

Out of 20 daily and Sunday nationals, 14 papers lost circulation compared to June, but the really worrying thing is that the same number lost sales compared with July last year. This might be accounted for by a lousy British summer sending more people overseas, but with the daily market selling 240,000 fewer than last year and the Sundays selling 700,000 fewer, it must have been a very good year for Thomas Cook.

The only quality paper to buck this year-on-year trend was the Financial Times. The pink paper lost 10,000 sales month on month, but is almost 8 per cent up on July last year. This may offer a crumb of comfort to the rest of the newspaper market because the FT's sales are the ones most insulated from vagaries in the British weather and holiday season. This is thanks to an overseas sale of around 150,000 out of its 350,000 total.

In all, the quality market is down by 65,000 copies a day compared with July 1997, an average fall of 2.28 per cent.

Month on month the broadsheets fell by 44,000 copies a day, a drop of 1.57 per cent. This fall was greater than the tabloids' monthly fall of just 0.18 per cent, or 19,000 a day, so it seems the tabloids weathered the end of a home interest in the World Cup better than the broadsheets. Both television ratings and newspaper sales were buoyed in June by an unprecedented interest in the finals. Oh, to have been a French newspaper publisher.

Daily Star's extensive redesign earlier in the summer has done little to protect it from the seasonal slump and it is the fastest falling tabloid both month on month and year on year. Indeed, the Star and The Express's joint tabloid market share are now a full five points behind that of the Daily Mail on its own.

In the Sunday market, The Observer stayed above the 400,000 mark by a grand total of 747 copies. The newspaper has in effect lost 20,000 sales in the past six months of experimentation with the form of the Sunday newspaper. Its new editor's return to straightforward news journalism, rather than feature-based articles, is none too surprising.

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