The latest ‘Island of Ireland’ report was released today and, if nothing else, it outlines the continuing decline of newspaper circulation in Ireland. The report compares newspaper sales for the last six months of 2018 to the same period in 2017. Looking at the overall figure first, it shows that year on year, newspaper sales have declined by 10% in the twelve months.
The Sunday market fell by -9.3% and the morning market by -10.1%. A double-digit decline in the total market had not been experienced before, the closest being a 9.4% decline in 2010. That last testing of the -10% mark can be ‘explained away’ by one set of figures (2009) containing sales of the Sunday Tribune and the comparative (2010) set is without those sales because of its closure – thus the 9% decline.
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|Market||JJ 2018||JJ 2017||Diff ‘000||Diff %|
The plunge into the double-digit decline could have been lessened, and possibly kept the market just into the single digit decline, except for policy changes by one publisher, something I’ll return to.
The newspaper market took a few twists and turns over the intervening twelve months. The tabloid market saw big changes in 2018 with media company ‘Reach’ (Daily Mirror etc) taking over the assets of Northern and Shell (Daily Star and Daily Express etc). It means that they now have six titles across the Morning and Sunday markets (not including a 50% in Independent Star Limited).
The Irish side of that purchase had to be approved by the CCPC, which it did late last year of the 50% in Independent Star Limited (Irish Daily Star) the other 50% owned by IM&M. The deal was cleared with a few stipulations but it’s interesting times of the tabloid market.
The Irish Times took over the assets of Landmark Media (Examiner and Echo, plus many regional and non-print media brands). A consequence of the purchase was the decision to move the Echo (fka ‘Evening Echo’) to the morning market in March 2019 and, in doing so, it tolls the death knell for the Evening newspaper market in Ireland. 1823-2019.
The Sunday Business Post changed ownership and the buyers signaled their intention to look towards a digital future for the business.
The consolidation of newsbrands under single umbrellas changes the market shares of the media groups dramatically and I’ve tried (as much as it’s possible) to estimate the new market shares for the new, expanded, media groups later.
|Publication||JD 2018||JD 2017||Diff ‘000||Diff %|
|Sunday Business Post||26,652||29,619||-2,967||-10.0%|
|Daily Star Sunday||12,880||15,262||-2,383||-15.6%|
|The Sun (Sunday)||49,304||53,620||-4,316||-8.0%|
|Irish Sunday Mirror||20,249||22,106||-1,858||-8.4%|
|Mail on Sunday||59,204||74,150||-14,946||-20.2%|
The Sunday Independent remains the largest circulated paper in Ireland at 165,334 down nearly 13,000 copies on 2017 representing a 7.3% decline. Eight per cent of that figure would be in bulks roughly on par with last year. Their cert also shows an audited figure for digital editions standing at 3,642 subscriptions in comparison to 2,600 last year.
The Sunday World stands at 123,095 an eight per cent decline on last year. They don’t carry any bulks and have no digital subscribers and, on that, have basically no digital footprint at all as their ‘website’ is a series of rotating jpegs.
The Sunday Business Post fell by 10% dropping just shy of 3,000 copies. The online version of the paper resides behind a paywall and their cert shows that they have 2,896 digital subscribers in comparison to 2,055 in the same period last year. For a paper with a penchant for all things digital and aspiration on a digital future, it’s not exactly a meteoric increase in digital subscribers. But, to remain positive, you’d like to think that that the 900 odd increase in digital subscribers was at the expense of the print edition.
The Daily Star on Sunday had a poor year dropping 16%, admittedly from a low base. These days the publication doesn’t editorialise or market to potential Irish purchasers and possibly only sees the publication, in this jurisdiction, as a cash generative vehicle.
The Mail on Sunday and DMG is the publisher I alluded to earlier. In 2018 they stopped carrying bulks and this ‘cold turkey’ policy in 2018 makes the fall in their circulation look somewhat dramatic. In 2017 (the comparative year) the paper was carrying circa 6,000 bulks on average every Sunday – these are not there anymore which accounts somewhat for their headline -20% decline. Had they not had a change of heart on the bulks, their decline would still have been in or around -12%.
The Sunday Times takes this periods’ Least Worst award (for the larger circulating papers) managing ‘only’ a -5% decline in a market back nearly -10% overall. There’s been a real drive by the paper of late to convert their customers away from the print platform to its digital offering. At the time of writing, you can get the six-day Times Ireland and the Sunday Times digitally for €5 a month. I’d expect to see that take up filter into their ABC’s over the next few months.
|Publication||JJ 2018||JJ 2017||Diff ‘000||Diff %|
|Irish Daily Star||44,233||48,686||-4,453||-9.1%|
|Irish Daily Mail||30,424||37,523||-7,099||-18.9%|
The morning market was down 10.1% year on year falling by 41,100 to 367,000 over the twelve month period. The Irish Independent remains in the top spot on the morning market with a circulation of 83,900 – which is a decline of 7% on 2017 (-6,200 copies). Within that number are 17,500 ‘bulks’ or 21% of its circulation. They also have 3,612 digital subscribers, an increase of about 900 digital subscribers on the previous year – which in no way covers the 6,000 decline in the printed publication.
The Irish Times circulation is 58,300 down 5% on the previous year. This, in percentage terms, was the smallest decrease in the morning market where the market as a whole fell by 10%. However, lurking in the bowels of the circulation department are 6,700 ‘bulks accounting for 12% of their circulation.
On the bright side are a very healthy 21,700 digital subscribers more than covering the fall in print circulation. It’s a 4,300 increase in subscriptions over 2017 or a 25% increase. Taking their print and digital together the numbers represent a 6% increase in their ‘brand footprint’.
The Examiner fell by 2,100 or 8%. The title has no digital subscribers at all, but I’m sure their new owners (the Irish Times) will show them a trick or two.
At first glance the Daily Mail looks like it ‘hit the skids’ during 2018, but, as I mentioned earlier much of the 18% is down to a policy change by DMG. Take out the bulks and the paper would have seen a drop of around 10%.
In the tabloids, The Sun managed to keep ahead of the market decline. It’s the least expensive tabloid paper available and their Saturday edition, given the lift in sales from the M-F average, is very popular.
The ‘Quality end’ of the morning market showed a bit of resistance with the Guardian, FT and Telegraph all managing to fall slower than the market average.
The Herald, having moved into the morning sector in 2013, will this year be joined in the morning market by the renamed Echo (once Evening Echo).
The Times number is disjointed at best. Introduction of bulks into the equation in mid-2017 and then having the number of bulks fluctuate wildly mikes it hard to get a real sense of their numbers.
Firstly the shares are based on the annual sales of publications. Any bulks have been stripped out (rightly or wrongly). Stripping out the bulks is part of a plan to assess the revenue in the market and they completely distort it (more on that at a later date).
Here are a few postscripts on the last ABC’s mainly through some feedback from various individuals.
First off – the overall charts looking at the Total, Morning and Sunday graphs over a prolonged period are somewhat erroneous. Really the charts should be looked at on a weekly basis as the charts are looking at morning and Sundays – therefore the chart should reflect the weekly sales of all titles – see below.
Next – Interestingly a title, still a member of the ABC as I write, but haven’t produced an ABC certificate – The Irish Farmers Journal. They last issued a cert for the period Jan–Dec 2017 (they are on an annual certification basis) and therefore should have issued a cert of the period Jan–Dec 2018 in the last Island of Ireland report. But we’ve heard nothing yet!