Among the dispiriting falls in circulation for UK national newspapers in October, there were a scant few success stories. Publishers must wish it were the other way round, but the Audit Bureau of Circulation results demonstrate that the industry is still largely haemorrhaging print readers.

Overall, the average circulation for the UK national papers fell 7.69 percent year-on-year to October. That’s largely a continuation of the ongoing trend for the past years.

The past years have occasionally seen one or two blips, however, which are then endlessly pored over to determine whether that publisher has found a silver bullet to reversing print declines. This time, that publication was The Times, which alone of all the nations managed to achieve year-on-year circulation growth of 0.84 percent.


Overall, though, that average of -7.69 percent circulation change within the last year is worrying.

It shows that even though the total circulations have declined, the rate of change has remained fairly constant. 


And though when you plot the circulation changes over the past six months the rate of decline seems to be relatively shallow…


… that’s essentially a trick of the light. Over the past six months each of the national newspapers bar one have seen their overall circulation fall, even as many have increased their bulk (free) circulations.

From Press Gazette:

“The Sun, in its first full month with Tony Gallagher in charge as editor, reduced its rate of decline and improved its market share versus the Daily Mirror. The Sun fell 8.7 per cent year on year versus the Daily Mirror’s fall of 10.7 per cent. The Sun topline figure was also helped by an increase in bulk copies, from 2,038 in September to 15,068 last month.”


Overall the latest ABCs paint a bleak picture for the long-term future of the industry, albeit one that publishers are as familiar with as the ones in the lobby of a budget hotel chain.

However, there’s a sliver of a silver lining to be found. Despite some predictions that the ad revenue that supports the print industry might indeed fall of a cliff, there’s evidence that most print newspapers will still be around into the 2020s, albeit in smaller forms. From John L Robinson:

“My prediction, which could be ridiculous and likely off-target, is this: Most newspapers will live well into the 2020s. They will continue to get smaller and many, if not most, will reduce the number of days per week they deliver.

“But as long as the current readers are alive — those who have decided they like the experience of newspaper reading — they’ll have an uncertain, yet safe, place.”