Aberdeen's morning newspaper, The Press and Journal
(P&J), despite a significant drop in circulation, continues to be the UK's top-selling regional daily newspaper according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) for the period July-December 2020.
The P&J, which is part of the DC Thomson Media stable, had a sale of 30,387 for the July-December 2020 period – down 21% on its 38,396 sale in July-December 2019, but it still holds top place in the regional circulation stakes – 4,893 copies per day ahead of the Irish Times
in second place on 25,494.
All of the 41 regional daily titles on which ABC published data for the second half of 2020 experienced double-digit print circulation decreases. However, this was against a backdrop of most of the UK in partial lockdown due to COVID-19.
The comparative figures, pieced together by media industry website, HoldTheFrontPage, from raw data provided by ABC, include paid-for single copies, paid-for multiple copies (known colloquially as 'bulks') and paid-for subscriptions. HTFP points out: 'The figures show Aberdeen daily, The Press and Journal
, is the UK newspaper with the highest combined circulation when the three factors are taken into account'.
Dundee's morning newspaper, The Courier
, also part of the DC Thomson Media stable, had the third-top UK circulation for July-December 2020 with a sale of 24,924 copies, only 570 copies behind the Irish Times
, compared with 29,725 in July-December 2019 – a decrease of 16%. Two other DC Thomson Media newspapers feature in the ABC figures – Aberdeen's Evening Express
fell 20% to 13,696, while Dundee's Evening Telegraph
was down 18% to 8,441. The Paisley Daily Express
sold 3,387 – down 14%. The regional figures also include The Scotsman
which surprisingly, and depressingly, fell by 37% – from 14,417 to 9,074.
HTFP reports: 'We have excluded free copies from our analysis of the data as they are only recorded by a handful of regional daily titles… similarly we have excluded subscriptions to e-editions as only 10 titles recorded figures for these, only six of which also included comparable figures for last year'.
Despite the fall in print sales during the pandemic, HTFP reveals that online readership has continued to grow over the same period 'with both Reach and Newsquest recently publishing record audience figures for their regional titles. However, online audience figures are no longer audited by ABC so are not included in the current circulation data'.
Leading media industry website, Press Gazette, reveals that the UK's current coronavirus lockdown has not hit national newspaper circulations as hard as last year's strict April restriction did – based on new figures from ABC. However, most titles are now again below the circulation levels to which they had begun to recover in May last year.
The one bright spot is Scotland's Sunday Mail
– up 1% month-on-month in January to 88,819 although down 16% year-on-year. The Daily Record
dropped 18% year-on-year to 85,769, while The Sunday Post
fell 22% year-on-year to 67,530.
Press Gazette reports that the Daily Mail's
print circulation has fallen to its lowest since the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in April. The UK's top-selling newspaper sold an average of 960,019 copies each day in January – an 18% drop year-on-year. The Daily Mail
had overtaken The Sun
as the UK's top-selling national newspaper in May 2020 and Press Gazette understands it has since consolidated its lead.
According to ABC, digital edition sales add a further 77,736 to the Daily Mail's
daily circulation figure – keeping it above one million. In March last year, before the first UK lockdown, the Daily Mail
was selling in excess of 1.1 million copies per day.
Also below their May 2020 circulations were the Mail on Sunday
, Daily Mirror
, Sunday Mirror
, Daily Express
, Daily Star
, Sunday Express
, Daily Star on Sunday
, the Sunday People
, and The Guardian
. Only The Observer
, the i
daily newspaper and the Financial Times
were, in January, above their May figures from last year.
Several national newspapers saw bigger year-on-year drops in January than the Daily Mail
. The FT's
circulation fell by 39%, the i by 35%, the Daily Star
by 21%, the Daily Express
by 19% and the Daily Mirror
by 19%. The smallest year-on-year drop was at The Observer
, which declined by only 8% to a sale of 143,764.
Exciting news from the i
daily newspaper which is creating 20 journalist jobs following a cash influx from its parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which bought it from JPIMedia for £49.6 million in November 2019. The i's
newsroom is being reorganised – merging the print and digital teams for the first time. Recruitment will boost the i's
current editorial staff of around 85 by about 20%.
editor-in-chief, Oly Duff, told Press Gazette: 'We are excited to be investing in original journalism once again. i's
fast digital growth and the success of our print editions, especially iWeekend
, show the appetite of our readers for news reporting that they trust. Our non-partisan political coverage is especially important to i
readers – 85% of them live outside the London bubble.
'The calibre of the journalists joining i
is a statement of intent. We're a growth project in British media but we have only just got started. 2021 is going to be a busy year in our newsroom.'
The news team is growing from 31 to 44 roles with the news editors section expanding from seven to 11. The 15 roles currently being advertised are: news reporters (5), political reporter, foreign editor, visual data journalist, iWeekend
news features editor, assistant news editor, feature writers (2), an audience development manager and audience executives (2). It is expected that about five more roles will be created over the coming months. Some additional appointments have already been made.
The latest PAMCo national readership survey, published in December, shows that the i
reaches 7.7 million people per month across print and digital (5.4 million on mobile, 1.2 million in print, 824,000 on tablet and 808,000 on desktop). It apparently reaches 979,000 people every day.
has been consistently named as one of the most trusted newspaper brands by PAMCo – drawing level with The Guardian
with an 86% trust rating in April last year.
Like most media folk, I was more than a little surprised with the sweeping changes to the board [management team] of BBC News – including making redundant the corporation's editorial director, Kamal Ahmed. Director of BBC News, Fran Unsworth, is cutting the number of positions on the board from 11 to eight, with head of news output, Gavin Allan, and the head of current affairs, Jo Carr, also made redundant along with Ahmed, effective from the end of this month [March].
The BBC is cutting 520 jobs from its news operation towards hitting a target of £80 million in annual savings by 2022.
I am curious as to the future of Ealing-born Ahmed, 53, who began his journalistic career in Scotland as a very promising graduate trainee at the Lennox Herald
weekly newspaper under award-winning editor Bill Heaney. Ahmed then joined Scotland on Sunday
in 1993, before moving on to The Observer
and the Sunday Telegraph
, and ultimately the BBC in 2014.
I enquired of a highly-placed source at the BBC whether there perhaps could be another role found for Ahmed at the corporation, where before becoming editorial director he had been a high-flyer as successively business editor and economics editor, and is currently reported to be earning £205,000 a year. My source judiciously pointed me to a quote from Unsworth in an email to BBC staff, specifying the redundancies of Ahmed, Allen and Carr, in which she said: 'I would like to thank them for their outstanding contribution to BBC News to date and we are exploring future options for them'.
Oh well. Perhaps that leaves the BBC door slightly ajar for Ahmed. Watch this space!
Brian Taylor, who recently retired as political editor of BBC Scotland, has joined The Herald's
expanding team of columnists – a return to print for Taylor who spent his early career with The Press and Journal
and Thomson Regional Newspapers before joining the BBC.
Taylor joins a number of well-known writers recently signed up by The Herald
amid a major expansion of its 'Voices' section, including prominent Scottish freelance journalists Lesley Riddoch and Brian Wilson, and The Scottish Farmer's
political affairs editor Claire Taylor.
Edinburgh University's Professor Linda Bauld, now often popping up on BBC Scotland as an expert on COVID-19, will be writing on health issues, while in sport, former managers of the Scottish national soccer teams – Alex McLeish and Shelley Kerr – will cover Euro 2020, and Adam Hastings, the Glasgow Warriors fly-half, will contribute a regular column during major rugby tournaments.