Stephen Glover: Sales show the public still want newspapers

Media Studies

We are told so often that papers in newsprint form are dying a slow and painful death that it may seem foolish to question the received wisdom. But sales figures for July released by the Audit Bureau for Circulations suggest that some people are stubbornly refusing to be weaned off their quaint old habit of reading newspapers, while others are prepared to give it a try.

When Rupert Murdoch pulled the plug on the News of the World last month, some 2.7 million people were buying the Sunday red-top (about three times as many were reading it). Some pundits thought that most would disappear into thin air, but they haven't. Five Sunday tabloids have added nearly two million in sales. This may seem all the more surprising given that some of them were in a pretty parlous state.

It is perfectly true that these titles might not be your perfect bedtime reading. In percentage terms, Richard Desmond's rather sleazy Daily Star Sunday has made the biggest gains, soaring over 90 per cent year-on-year to 703,631. But the more serious Sunday Mirror has increased 54.66 per cent over the year to 1,786,454, while its stablemate, The People, which was apparently trembling on the verge of closure, has risen by nearly 50 per cent to 806,544. The mid-market Mail on Sunday and Sunday Express have also made substantial, if less dramatic, gains.

One shouldn't assume all new buyers will stick, but for the moment it seems that the great majority of formerNews of the World readers can't do without a newspaper. Hard-pressed publishers will be rubbing their hands in a state of bewilderment at this unexpected boon, not least Trinity Mirror, owner of the Sunday Mirror and The People, which last week reported annual profits down 65 per cent. At the other end of the market there is a more confusing picture, with the Sunday Times dipping below a million copies for the first time since 1962 while the plucky and redoubtable Independent on Sunday reported a headline circulation of 167,247, an increase of nearly eight per cent over 12 months.

In the daily market, all titles admittedly continued to slip in varying degrees with one exception which I shall not forbear to mention. This newspaper's new spin-off i posted its best ever monthly figure of 183,677. It and The Independent together outsell The Guardian even if one discounts The Independent's so-called bulk copies sold at a lesser rate. The success of i, in common with the Sunday tabloid resurgence, suggests to me there are still many readers who want newspapers in newsprint form, and that the internet is not necessarily the answer to everything.

Did The Guardian hack phones?

The BBC and The Guardian led the pack in castigating the phone hacking that took place at the News of the World. Both have been less candid in disclosing their own possibly similar practices.

John Higginson, political editor of Metro, recently unearthed an article written by David Leigh, an executive editor of The Guardian, in December 2006. Mr Leigh admitted to intercepting voicemails, and to having felt a "voyeuristic thrill" on one occasion. His defence was that he was trying to expose "bribery and corruption" and not "witless tittle-tattle about the Royal Family". I should also mention a case I wrote about here on 25 July 2009 involving The Guardian's use of a private investigator in 1999 to obtain information about a multinational company.

The BBC has admitted that it does "use private investigators occasionally and exceptionally to help with programmes" but it has not yet made a comprehensive rebuttal to the charge that it employed Jonathan Rees, a convicted criminal and private investigator. Mr Rees and his solicitor claim he worked for Panorama on two occasions between 1990 and 1993. There are allegations that other BBC programmes have made regular use of private detectives.

Obviously neither the BBC nor The Guardian used phone hacking on a scale remotely approaching the News of the World. But if they used it at all, however they may justify it, shouldn't they come clean now, rather than wait for Lord Justice Leveson's official inquiry?

Time to ditch celebrity tweets

David Cameron is reportedly considering whether social media such as Twitter should be shut down during riots. I should like to propose that newspapers stop quoting the usually shallow tweets of well-known people. Last week yielded a rich crop of idiocies reverentially published by newspapers, including this one.

Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker, tweeted: "While I condemn riots, I do agree that there are underlying causes." The woman is a genius! Footballer Joey Barton brilliantly opined that "violence always comes from a place of misunderstanding and low zero self-worth" while a visionary Stephen Fry pronounced that "greed and looting most hurts the small shops and businesses who can least afford it".

Wayne Rooney was also vocal on the riots, having earlier in the week self-interestedly tweeted that Manchester United's victory over Manchester City was a "footballing lesson".

Why do newspapers reproduce this stuff? Partly because they think they have their finger on the zeitgeist, and partly because they like to publish what celebrities are thinking, even if it is utterly mundane and self-serving. We are in danger of becoming mere handmaidens to the rich and famous.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement