The explosion of online reading has given newspapers a new lease of life and global, instant reach. But new figures show that total UK newspaper brand readership is not growing and is even facing a small decline.

According to the latest NRD PADD figures, newspaper brands attracted fewer readers from the UK on daily, weekly and monthly measures in March 2013 than they did just six months earlier. 

The total number of readers attaracted at least once a month across print and online was down from 74.5 million to 73.5 million between November 2012 and March 2013 (that figures includes readers of multiple brands).

But the overall trend is clear: the growth the news industry has enjoyed from digital has offset print declines but we right now we may be looking at an audience plateau: 

And the problem isn’t just one of age. Looking at weekly readership, the decline is happening among both over and under 35s.

When you look at the proportion of readers different sectors attract on the web, you get much more variation, and that has big implications for the future. Note also that the majority of website readers don’t read a print edition regularly:

…and for over 35s, look how keen they are on print versus online:

This graph shows how popular titles like The Sun and The Mirror are hugely reliant on print for their readership.

In the short term, that’s possibly a good thing for popular titles. Print still brings in higher ad revenues and for the forseeable future will make up the lion’s share of these papers’ profits. Though it’s about to launch a paywalled website and mobile app, The Sun’s plan is to monetise its loyal print readers, not just capture new digital ones.

Global caveat

There is a major caveat to these figures. these are for the UK only – a place where the market for these newspapers is saturated. That’s the driving force behind the global strategies of both the Guardian and the Daily Mail, both of whom do their best to emphasise their global readerships. 

Given that the loyalty of UK consumers to newspapers – online and off – is waning, chasing global readers is clearly one of the few routes to growth. Monetising them however is a different challenge.