The latest ABC data release offers further positive news after an already strong start to the year. Yes, year on year decline is still the norm for almost all titles, but the decline is broadly reduced across the board, with plenty of month on month gains.


There is an argument to be made that many of the gains for this period, particularly in the quality market, is down to the passing of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. Their readers (few though they may have been in the end), had to go somewhere, and accounting for them could make this month something of an anomaly. Normal service to be resumed next month, perhaps. But we can see a positivity in these figures that seems to come from somewhere other than the Indy’s influence from beyond the grave.


Let’s start with the figures that do seem to stem from The Independent’s demise.


Several papers tried to take immediate advantage by increasing their free distribution in an attempt to snare floating readers. The Times and the Daily Telegraph both increased their free bulk distribution, by just under 11,000 each, and The i did the same to the lesser extent of just over a further 2000 free copies. While it is true that bulk sales sway the overall image for the papers that utilise them, these papers performed strongly nonetheless.


Most obviously, The i, former sister paper to The Independent saw an impressive rise of 12,094 MoM (bulks removed). Inclusive of the multiple sales The i recorded a rise of 5.3% MoM and 3.1% YoY.


Elsewhere the Daily Telegraph saw paid-for circulation up 6,212 (inclusive of bulk sales an increase of 3.5% MoM), The Times up by 5,235 (3,8% MoM increase, again inclusive of bulk sales) and The Guardian up by 4,612 (no bulk circulation, up 2.9% MoM).


Sunday papers saw similar increases, with The Observer in particular faring very well as it recorded increased sales of 5.3% MoM. Meanwhile, the Sunday Times was up 3.4% and the Sunday Telegraph up 3% MoM. All figures helped, no doubt, by a few ex-Independent on Sunday readers.


Out of the quality papers, the only paper that appeared to suffer was the FT: down 3.4%, dropping almost 7,000 copies in the process.


Outside of the direct competition to The Independent (and less likely to have figures influenced by it no longer being printed), the popular and mid-markets also recorded positive figures overall. The best results were recorded by the Daily Star which grew 5.7% MoM (aided less by The Independent and more by it’s cover price of 20p), and the Daily Star Sunday which was up 6% MoM – an impressive 25% YoY.


Less positively the Daily Mirror fell 11% YoY (0.2% increase MoM), while The Sun recorded a loss of 1.2% MoM.


The overall daily market was down just 0.2% YoY. The Sunday market was up by 0.8% MoM and down -3.5% YoY.


While the industry remains in a state of flux, the start to the year has been positive for newsbrands so far. Let’s hope it remains that way for the rest of 2016!


By Oliver Brown