Analysing the ABC figures for December

Our media team analyses the recent ABC figures for December and adjudges the performance of the national media newspapers over the festive period.

Both the daily and Sunday markets saw month-on-month circulation falls in December, following an annual pattern – this dip is accounted for by the Christmas bank holidays, commuters taking leave from work, routines disrupted by family visits, and usual morning behaviour changed by the inevitable office party hangover.

The Guardian was the only title to buck the downward month on month trend, posting a 1.6% increase; all titles except the buoyant i posted year on year circulation falls.  The i now circulates 48,000 (31%) more copies than its sister title, The Independent, which underwent another relaunch late in 2011 in an attempt to preserve falling sales.

The quality Sunday market was slightly down both month on month and year on year, but while the mid and popular titles haven’t been able to totally sustain their initial summer bounce following the closure of the News of the World (NOTW) , they have all still benefitted in the long term – while the Mail on Sunday is only 3% up, the Sunday Mirror is up 62%, the Sunday Express 19%, the People 59% and the Daily Star Sunday 94% (admittedly these titles started from a lower base number than the Mail on Sunday but these are still impressive retention figures since August).  Even taking these impressive circulation increases into account, they haven’t made up the circulation deficit for the NOTW – the Sunday market is still approximately 1.4 million copies down since its closure.

This week, the Guardian has implemented further cost-cutting measures, including pulling the previously separate Berliner Sport section into Main News Tuesday – Friday, and transforming the Friday Film & Music section from Berliner to G2 format.  This slimmer package is intended to save print costs and reduce overall pagination; as more readers receive breaking news from other sources, the paper product will begin to focus more on contextualisation, making it relevant for longer; Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, set out the rationale for these changes in 16th Jan issue, reminding readers that the best way to support journalism was to continue to pay for the paper or to buy content via the iPad.