June 14, 2012

Why don’t British lefties buy newspapers?


In the New Statesman Dominic Ponsford wonders why left-wing readers in the UK won’t buy physical newspapers. The Guardian has gotten a huge boost in online traffic after a year of big investigative stories on the News Corporation phone hacking scandal—it now reaches almost 70 million unique monthly visitors online—but the circulation of its print edition has dwindled to just 214,128. “The left-of-centre press has always been in a minority in the UK,” Ponsford writes, “but it is becoming even more so, possibly because young lefties are less like to buy a paper than older, more conservative readers.” As for the stats:

Looking at the three left of centre dailies: The Guardian sold 367,000 copies a day five years ago, it now stands at 214,128; The Independent 249,536 versus 98,636 today; the Daily Mirror 1,537,243 versus 1,084,355.

Collectively that is a sales decline of 35 per cent.

Looking at the main right of centre dailies, the Daily Mail was selling 2,300,420 copies a day five years ago versus 1,991,275 today; the Daily Express 760,086 versus 568,628; the Daily Telegraph 898,817 versus 576,790; The Times 629,157 versus 393, 187 and The Sun 3,047,527 versus 2,624,008.

That’s collectively a drop of 19.4 per cent. Even if you lump the 200,000 odd daily sales of politically neutral ‘i’ in with the left-wing press it doesn’t move the dial much. You are looking at around 1.5m daily sales for left-wing papers versus more than four times that for the right-wing dailies.

And don’t forget paid-for digital subscriptions to The Times and Sunday Times now stand at around 250,000.

Ponsford further warns that on “On the left only The Guardian has journalistic fire power to match the Mail and assembled forces of News International. But its trust-fund millions (in the form of holdings in the likes of Emap and Autotrader) won’t last forever. So the message for left-wingers who care about the media is this…. you need to take your smug grin down to the newsagents and buy a newspaper.”


Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.