An insight from Capital City Media into… falling newspaper sales

Thomas Sutherland
Account Director

There are no prizes for spotting that newspaper sales are in decline. But the situation is more nuanced than it seems.

Look beyond the headline figures and you will find that the biggest losses are coming from the social group most-prized by advertisers –the so-called ABs.

Not to be confused with a blood group, these are the wealthiest and most highly-educated in society - the barristers, the senior managers and the business owners.

In a nutshell, what we are seeing is that these people are abandoning print much quicker than the rest of society.

As an example, let’s look at the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper which has traditionally commanded a large AB audience. In 2008, the paper had a daily readership of nearly 2.1 million people, 1.2 million of which fell into the AB social bracket.

Fast-forward 10 years and the situation is very different.Readership has fallen by 56% to 880,000 but the number of AB readers has fallen by an even greater 60% to 485,000.

The same can be said for many other papers, such as the FT,which has seen total readership fall 56% in the past 10 years but AB readership by a whopping 64%.

Where are they going? Online, of course. A huge improvement in mobile apps in recent years has tempted more people to consume their news digitally.  

You may be thinking, so what? But the shift has serious implications not only for print newspapers, but also for the companies that advertise in them.

It means that advertisers can no longer adopt a scatter-gun approach to advertising. They are getting less bang for their buck as the national press struggle to hang on to their most valued of audiences.

Instead, they must become cleverer in the way they target Britain’s most affluent demographic.

The most successful campaigns now are the ones backed by firms and agencies that understand what sections of the paper their prized AB audience are reading and why they are reading them.

Is print dead for advertisers? Not at all. But the old ways of working just won’t cut it in 2019.

Tom Sutherland,account director at Capital City Media