The Audit Bureau of Circulation has released its figures for the six months ending December 31 2006.
The overall picture was one of falling circulation, among evening, morning and weekly regional newspapers.
Almost all were down, with the exceptions being the Oxford Mail, up 1.5 per cent year-on-year and the Scunthorpe Telegraph, up 2.8 per cent. The South Wales Evening Post recorded a 0.5 per cent rise year-on-year, Monday to Friday.
The morning paper, the Irish News (up 0.3 percent) in Northern Ireland and the Guernsey Press and Star, an evening paper in the Channel Islands (up 0.8 per cent), were the only other titles to buck the trend and record an increase in sales on last year.
Mail editor Simon O’Neill said: “It’s a fabulous result for everyone here, both the journalists and the sales team, who work very closely together.
“There’s no one factor or secret formula.
“Every editor out there whether they have plus or minus figures would say the same thing: there are many others out there who do a job as good as we do who’ve not got the result that we have.”
He said a consistent identity for the Mail, now selling 25,838, had struck a chord with the core readership.
Evening Post editor Spencer Feeney said: “The latest figures continue our steady sales improvement since we switched to overnight printing in October 2005. In that time, we have become the largest selling newspaper in Wales, and have now recorded a plus in the latest ABC figures.
“It’s built on solid regional newspaper values; a high story count, an intense focus on local and regional issues (we don’t run any national news), strong reporting on news and sport, and a series of powerful campaigns.
“We have a very strong community focus; for example, our current Health Matters petition to prevent a neuro-surgery department being moved from Swansea to Cardiff has been signed by more than 100,000 readers. It is that kind of local connection that has driven our sales over the last year.”
Those that suffered the biggest drops in the previous six months, the Birmingham Mail (-11.8 per cent) and Peterborough Evening Telegraph (-11 per cent), have failed to shore up their sales, although the Birmingham figure was -17.5 per cent six months ago.
Mail editor Steve Dyson said: “As we said before we expected the rate of decline to improve in the second half of the year.
“With this in mind these latest ABC figures are encouraging, and going forward we fully expect this trend to improve still further.”
Among the hardest hit were the Nottingham Evening Post (down nine per cent), Oldham Chronicle, down 8.4 per cent, Liverpool Daily Post, down nine per cent following a free city-centre give-away, the Western Daily Press, down 8.4 per cent, The Journal in Newcastle, down 7.5 per cent, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, down 9.6 per cent, and the Doncaster Star, down 13.6 per cent.
The Manchester Evening News, which shed 7,000 city centre editions as it went free to city centre readers, changed its circulation pattern again, resulting in a massive 28.5 per cent drop, to 95,727 year-on-year.
A statement from the MEN said: “The Manchester Evening News’s July-December ABC paid circulation figure is entirely in line with our expectations and business plan for this period.
“The free editions of the M.E.N. have increased steadily throughout the latter part of 2006 and now stand at an audited figure of 77,831 copies and in a couple of weeks this figure will be re-audited and will rise to 81,402 copies each weekday. This therefore gives the M.E.N. its highest combined circulation figure since 2000, at 176,051 copies each weekday.
“We now focus our emphasis completely on the delivery of our newspaper when, where and how our readers want to receive it and price our product accordingly. With more people reading the newspaper than at any time in our recent history, this strategy seems to be a successful one for both our readers and our advertisers.”
The Express & Star remains the country’s biggest seller, recording a Monday-Friday figure of 143,751, but still lost 5.3 per cent of purchases.
The Birmingham Post bucked industry trends to sell 2.2 per cent more copies in the second half of 2006 than the first. It dropped just 0.9 per cent year-on-year.
Editor Marc Reeves: “This performance is underpinned by a return to The Birmingham Post’s great tradition of serious broadsheet journalism aimed at the region’s wealth creators and policy makers.”
Others that retained circulation were the Ipswich Star, down 1.5 per cent, the Basildon Echo, down 1.2 per cent, and the Swindon Advertiser, down 1.2 per cent.
The Dorest Echo was down 1.6 per cent, and the Greenock Telegraph down one per cent.
Among the regional Sunday newspapers, The Sentinel, in Stoke, which went tabloid six months ago after a 19 per cent fall in sales, this time averaged out a year-on-year increase of 13.8 per cent year-on-year and 28 per cent on the previous six months.