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The alternative ABCs: Family-owned daily tops ‘pure sales’ league table

noeldoranA family-owned morning newspaper was the best-performing regional title in the second half of 2017 – based solely on retail sales.

The official ABC figures published earlier this month showed the Wigan Post and The Scotsman as the only daily titles to increase circulation in the period July to December 2017, both aided by a significant number of free copies.

But an analysis of the figures by HTFP, removing bulk sales and free copies from the equation, reveals a different story with the Belfast-based Irish News topping the league table.

Although its retail sale figure of 33,906 was down 4pc on the equivalent figure in 2016, it represented the best sales performance by a UK title in the six-month period.

While the official figures, published by ABC on 1 March, included free copies and multiple paid-for copies – known in the trade as bulks – our analysis excluded these from both the 2016 and 2017 figures.

The year-on-year percentage comparisons between the two therefore provide a more accurate reflection of actual sales performance in the second half of 2017, as opposed to the official statistics which measure total circulation.

Commenting on our figures, Irish News editor Noel Doran, pictured, said: “These are obviously difficult times for newspapers but it is still a considerable achievement for a family-owned title to emerge as the best performer in what remains a very competitive UK regional daily market in terms of retail sales.

“We are setting out to build on a year in which we increased our circulation in the first six months and again managed to set the standard in the second half, so we are grateful to HTFP for producing such a comprehensive and credible assessment of the overall position.”

Our list also sees regional publisher Newsquest performing well relative to the other big publishing groups, with ten of its daily titles occupying the top 15 places in the league table.

Best-performing title in the group was pro-independence Scottish daily The National, which saw its sale decline by 6.1pc while the best-performing English daily in the group was the Swindon Advertiser, down 6.5pc.

David Coates, Newsquest’s managing director responsible for the company’s newspaper sales development, said: “It’s pleasing to see the Newsquest titles performing so well, relative to our peer group.

“More than anything it’s down to the hard work of our local journalists and circulation departments. And where we have restructured newsrooms, we’ve tried to do this in a way that continues to protect front-line local news reporting.”

The full list of UK regional dailies, in order of year-on-year performance, is as follows:

Newspaper Jul-Dec 17 ABC less multiple / free copies YoY% change
Irish News 33,906 -4.03
Paisley Daily Express 4,508 -6.08
The National 9,746 -6.11
Greenock Telegraph 8,958 -6.25
Swindon Advertiser 8,784 -6.50
Oxford Mail 9,486 -6.85
Western Daily Press 14,472 -6.90
The Argus, Brighton 9,495 -7.23
Press & Journal 47,821 -7.28
Essex Echo 16,977 -7.57
Worcester News 6,574 -7.80
Dorset Echo 9,331 -8.48
Colchester Daily Gazette 8,859 -8.60
The Courier 35,618 -8.99
The Bolton News 8,737 -9.06
Bournemouth Daily Echo 12,289 -9.50
Southern Daily Echo 14,491 -9.94
Belfast Telegraph 27,008 -10.11
Edinburgh Evening News 16,093 -10.14
Plymouth Herald 14,681 -10.21
The Press, York 13,104 -10.30
The Northern Echo 21,498 -10.32
Derby Telegraph 15,814 -10.39
The Herald, Glasgow 25,869 -10.40
South Wales Argus 9,414 -10.70
North Wales Daily Post 19,842 -10.83
Dundee Evening Telegraph 13,304 -11.02
East Anglian Daily Times 14,101 -11.05
Lancashire Telegraph 8,426 -11.06
Western Morning News 17,629 -11.15
Bradford Telegraph & Argus 12,382 -11.25
South Wales Echo 13,394 -11.53
News Letter 13,585 -11.58
Aberdeen Evening Express 22,688 -11.62
Glasgow Evening Times 20,874 -11.91
Sheffield Star 14,716 -11.92
Grimsby Telegraph 14,053 -12.04
The Sentinel 23,249 -12.13
Ipswich Star 5,984 -12.32
The Scotsman 14,978 -12.82
Hull Daily Mail 23,414 -12.83
Nottingham Post 13,581 -13.03
Liverpool Echo 37,703 -13.37
Birmingham Mail 16,626 -13.41
Sunderland Echo 11,075 -13.65
Shropshire Star 22,292 -14.06
The Gazette, Blackpool 8,187 -14.16
South Wales Evening Post 18,029 -14.27
Newcastle Journal 10,789 -14.28
Yorkshire Post 20,481 -14.38
The Western Mail 13,419 -14.51
Newcastle Chronicle 22,401 -14.57
Teesside Gazette 17,557 -14.67
Burton Mail 6,445 -14.83
The News, Portsmouth 16,277 -15.14
Lancashire Post 9,100 -15.36
Hartlepool Mail 4,117 -15.55
Huddersfield Daily Examiner 10,418 -15.65
Eastern Daily Press 28,970 -15.65
Leicester Mercury 20,133 -16.06
Wigan Post 1,997 -16.16
Yorkshire Evening Post 11,494 -16.16
Manchester Evening News 22,324 -16.20
Express & Star 38,264 -16.52
Carlisle News and Star East 5,357 -16.73
Shields Gazette 4,565 -16.74
Cambridge News 8,722 -16.99
Carlisle News and Star West 2,026 -17.74
Norwich Evening News 7,507 -18.15
The Post, Bristol 14,074 -19.03
Coventry Telegraph 12,256 -19.16
The Mail 6,058 -19.19


The official list, which also includes free copies and multiple paid-for copies, was:

Newspaper Jul-Dec 17 ABC YoY % change
Wigan Post 3,370 42%
The Scotsman 19,792 2%
Derby Telegraph 18,106 -4%
Irish News 34,082 -4%
The Argus, Brighton 10,581 -5%
Burton Mail 7,365 -6%
Greenock Telegraph 8,959 -6%
Paisley Daily Express 4,508 -6%
The National 9,746 -6%
Press & Journal 48,208 -7%
Western Daily Press 14,472 -7%
Nottingham Post 16,304 -7%
Oxford Mail 9,494 -7%
Southend Echo 16,977 -8%
Swindon Advertiser 8,828 -8%
Worcester News 6,574 -8%
Belfast Telegraph 36,403 -9%
Colchester Daily Gazette 8,859 -9%
Dorset Echo 9,331 -9%
The Courier, Dundee 35,813 -9%
Edinburgh Evening News 16,660 -9%
Yorkshire Post 21,817 -9%
South Wales Argus 9,796 -9%
The Bolton News 8,737 -9%
Bournemouth Daily Echo 12,289 -10%
The Northern Echo 21,498 -10%
Plymouth Herald 14,681 -10%
The Herald, Glasgow 25,869 -10%
The Press, York 13,104 -10%
South Wales Echo 13,394 -10%
Bradford Telegraph & Argus 12,382 -11%
North Wales Daily Post 19,842 -11%
Dundee Evening Telegraph 13,321 -11%
East Anglian Daily Times 14,101 -11%
News Letter 13,710 -11%
Western Morning News 17,629 -11%
Aberdeen Evening Express 22,736 -12%
Glasgow Evening Times 20,874 -12%
Leicester Mercury 22,794 -12%
Sheffield Star 14,716 -12%
Southern Daily Echo 14,491 -12%
The Post, Bristol 15,271 -12%
The Western Mail 13,419 -12%
Lancashire Telegraph 8,426 -12%
Birmingham Mail 16,626 -13%
Grimsby Telegraph 14,334 -13%
Hull Daily Mail 23,456 -13%
Liverpool Echo 38,474 -13%
The Sentinel 23,249 -13%
Express & Star 47,669 -14%
Newcastle Journal 10,789 -14%
Shropshire Star 23,110 -14%
South Wales Evening Post 18,029 -14%
Sunderland Echo 11,075 -14%
The Gazette, Blackpool 8,187 -14%
Ipswich Star 8,620 -15%
Lancashire Post 9,100 -15%
Huddersfield Daily Examiner 10,418 -16%
Manchester Evening News 39,422 -16%
Newcastle Chronicle 22,401 -16%
Eastern Daily Press 28,970 -16%
Cambridge News 10,808 -17%
Teesside Gazette 17,557 -17%
Hartlepool Mail 4,183 -18%
Norwich Evening News 7,507 -18%
The News, Portsmouth 16,277 -18%
Shields Gazette 4,602 -18%
Coventry Telegraph 12,256 -19%
Carlisle News and Star East 5,381 -20%
The Mail 6,058 -22%
Carlisle News and Star West 2,026 -24%
Yorkshire Evening Post 11,494 -29%



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  • March 15, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Really good piece of journalism. Best thing I’ve sern on this website in a long time. It shows the reality of newspaper sales.
    Please can you do the same for weekly papers? Every week I see hundreds dumped in my local supermarket which will later be claimed as “sales” in the ABC figures.

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  • March 15, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Depressing sales of just over 9,000 a day for once hugely popular papers like the Brighton Argus and Oxford Mail and just over 11,000 for the once-mighty Yorkshire Evening Post tell a sorry tale only partly redeemed by digital income. Well done HTFP for shining a light on true sales. No fake news here.

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  • March 15, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Very good work this and would like to see it every time official figures are published. Sad to see the Wigan Post below 2,000…and the figures for Norwich and Cambridge are pretty shocking. For some, the fat lady isn’t quite ready to sing but she is sure standing close to the stage.

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  • March 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I used to hate bulk drops. Never felt comfortable with hundreds – sometimes thousands – of papers being given to estate agents and airports.
    Always felt like a false inflation of our sales figures.
    Bravo HTFP – a great bit of work, but also alarming when you look down those lists.
    It would be hard to deliver more compelling evidence on the imminent death of print.

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  • March 15, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    A really excellent piece of long overdue work, giving real insight. It would be nice to see the same for paid-for weeklies

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  • March 15, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Looks like the Trinity slash and burn approach is working wonders at titles like the Cambridge News. Looking back at previous ABC results, until a couple of years ago it looked like one of the more resilient titles. No doubt their situation is exasperated by reducing the quality of their own product while a superior one enters the market (run by former CN employees) which is probably the worst strategy possible. At what point do those who have initiated these cuts and redundancies become responsible for their utter failure? Never it seems.

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  • March 15, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    How can you say the CN looked like one of the more resilient titles when we don’t know how much previous ABC results were influenced by bulks and other freebies? And while the Cambridge Independent is often lauded on here as a great product, does anyone know how many are actively sold each week? You certainly won’t find it on here that’s for sure. So your analysis with previous ABCs isn’t comparing apples with apples, and your comparison with an apparently better newspaper makes no reference to actual sales.

    I’d ask what you’d have done differently if faced with the same set of circumstances as the bosses you readily condemn, but I suspect the answer would be a nonsense too.

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  • March 16, 2018 at 8:00 am

    @profit of doom. I know the figures. I know how much used to go out as free hand outs, how many went to local hotels, how many were taken out daily to walkers who delivered via a subscription model, how much is paid to van drivers to deliver to said walkers.
    I also know that before Trinity took over there was many good ideas coming out to improve this. Especially the subscription model which is ridiculous. None of these have been tried or actioned but instead, as seems to be the case all over, the simpler cutting of staff and quality has happened instead while also pinching pennies that effects quality in other aspects. This is pretty indicative of what is happening all over now as you have no idea people anymore.

    The Independent can’t be compared because it has a completely different model. It’s lauded because it’s giving people what they want in a completely different way to CN. A way that the CN could’ve gone but for the previous actions mentioned being the only objective at every printed title it seems.

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  • March 16, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    So Trinity Mirror just looked at all these great ideas to sell more copies of the newspaper profitably and just decided not to? Seems an odd way to run a company.

    And why can’t the Independent be compared to the News? Why is its model so different? Isn’t it all about selling newspapers and advertising to support journalism? Your answer doesn’t make much sense at all.

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  • March 19, 2018 at 11:22 am

    The fact that you think anyone at Trinity consults anyone at local level anymore is quite amusing. Well if anyone is actually that local anymore.
    I’m not here to convince you of anything I can only tell you what happened on the ground and what I saw based on my 30+ years in Local paper distribution all over the country. There is no appetite to try new approaches or new ideas. It’s a simple milking of decline I’m afraid.

    Have you actually seen the Independent or know what its design and model is? Or how it’s distributed?

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