Never mind the web, guv, it's the quality papers what count

Last month I speculated that, amid declining newspaper sales, there is some evidence that the market for serious journalism remains strong. October's figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations have reinforced my optimism. Total sales are down across the board, but quality titles have suffered less than their red-top rivals.

The Financial Times has increased its circulation again, up by 1.85 per cent since September and by 2.19 per cent since October 2006. Among the Sundays, outgoing editor Roger Alton's Observer achieved a month- on-month sales increase of 3.17 per cent and an annual circulation boost of 0.15 per cent. The Sunday Telegraph recorded a month-on-month sales increase of 1.03 per cent. The Sunday Times sold 2.43 per cent more copies.

If this is a trend it is very fragile. Year-on-year comparisons show the quality daily market smaller by 2.4 per cent – from a combined daily sale of 2,768,277 copies in October 2006 to 2,701,701 last month. Sunday qualities slipped by 2.1 per cent, the Sunday red-tops by 2.27 per cent and the mid market Sundays by 3.64 per cent.

The popular daily titles lost just 1.24 per cent of their circulation in the year to October 2007. Last month the Daily Mirror, Daily Record, Daily Star and The Sun sold a combined average of 5,825,499 copies per day, down from 5,898,752 last year.

The Sun deserves special mention. It posted its first annual sales increase since 2003 – just 0.63 per cent, but on a circulation of more than 3 million that's nearly 20,000 extra daily sales. No wonder Rupert Murdoch is investing in all-colour presses. At this rate, predictions of printed news's demise are foolishly premature.

There was another fillip for my theory about quality journalism. The London Evening Standard, made more sophisticated to differentiate it from the free papers, achieved a month-on-month sales increase of 0.48 per cent and an annual rise of 3.77 per cent. The war is not won, but neither is the decline inexorable.

The mid-market titles confirm that. Despite small monthly sale declines the Daily Mail and Daily Express posted annual circulation rises: leaving national mid-market dailies up from 3,139,449 sales to 3,143, 674 since October 2006. It is just a 0.13 per cent rise, but the contrast with commentaries which daily predict the demise of newspapers is stark.

Of course, cynics attribute such achievements to promotion, not content. Their point is facile. In my office I have a copy of a Sidney "George" Strube cartoon from a 1931 edition of the Daily Express. It depicts an editor, seated beneath promotional billboards, telling his journalists: "I've got no room for news tonight Boys." Such gimmicks were part of the newspaper market long before that was published.

So, yes, October's ABCs confirm The Independent on Sunday sold fewer copies in October than in September. So did The Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent and Scotsman. And yes, beneath headline optimism are evidence of hugely increased bulk, discount and overseas sales, traditional devices for massaging circulation.

But if British journalism is not to be undermined by those who should care about it most, something more than a bleak dichotomy between printed pages and websites is required. The internet is fantastic. My students will learn to use it for audio, visual and text-based reporting. But I am convinced the convenience of printed pages makes them too useful to kill.

The Victorian journalist Charles Peabody began his 1882 history of British journalism by praising it for making bribery and corruption impossible. To his generation, newspapers were instruments of progress, servants of the public good. Such pride is sneered at now, but it has additional relevance in the new era. Britain's popular news websites belong to trusted papers and broadcasters; users understand they are an extension of printed parents. Journalists owe it to their profession to promote the underlying economic truth that without the print, the web could not support quality reporting.

Tim Luckhurst is professor of journalism at the University of Kent

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm - London

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Accountant -Home Entertainment

£200 - £250 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Accountant -Home Entertainment

£200 - £250 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea