If September provided the plaster to bridge the decline in newspaper circulation has October brought with it the real remedy at last?


While September saw a decline on the previous month in sales, it performed better than the general month on month forecasting for the year so far. And if September fared better than the average decline, October looked like stemming the decline altogether in what was (temporarily at least) a levelling off of newspaper sales.


According to the latest ABC circulation figures the national newspapers in October lost just one half a percentage and the Sunday papers only 1.5%


The Daily Star saw the biggest improvement on last month with an increase in sales of 7.1% (an extra 28,700 copies) following a price cut. Aside from this the Financial Times, Times and Sun also showed increases in sales of 1.1%, 0.4% and 0.3% respectively.


Of course October has also had its casualties with the Independent being worst hit with a -2.6% decline in sales. Even this however amounts to only 1,500 copies – a snip when compared to the monthly differential in favour of the Daily Star. The free press also fared well – with circulation up 1.8% (helped by a 2.1% boost in City A.M’s distribution).


Now, at first glance these figures might seem almost negligible. After all a percentage here or there in most industries is hardly anything to shout from the rooftops about, with these kinds of swings often the result of quite arbitrary considerations. When we compare it to the general month on month pattern of decline in the newspaper industry however, any kind of levelling off of sales brings with it a whole new kind of significance.


Writer and media consultant Raymond Snoddy for instance had this to say about the latest ABC results, in what he describes as a “good month” for newspaper sales:


“The Holy Grail for national newspapers is to find the bottom of the circulation sales decline – after all these years. And once found, even if they can only manage to bump along that bottom, what a wonderful thing that would be.”


It can be easy to get carried away with figures over a one to two-month time span, in what can often be simply an anomaly. This being said the rate at which newspapers circulation figures have been declining is far slower than many initially anticipated anyway. Whether or not this truly is the bottom of the decline in newspaper circulation remains to be seen – however October at the very least displays a strong riposte to notions of its imminent demise, and offers greater reason than ever not to underestimate the power of print among consumers.


By Paul Gregson