Another sad circulation milestone was passed in December. For the first time since the end of the second world war, fewer than 10m national newspapers were sold on any day of the week across Britain. According to the ABC figures for December, the 10 national dailies published from London together sold 9,777,370 copies, down on the same period a year ago, while the 10 Sundays sold 9,526,843 in total.
These figures also confirm the other long–running trend in which
the Sunday titles are losing ground faster than the dailies, mainly because the Saturday editions are so popular.
Two further bits of important context. First, to sell almost 10m papers a day in a population of 60 million still marks Britain out as a major fan of newsprint. Second, many thousands of people are reading national paper websites every day, and the numbers increase month by month. There may be a crisis of revenue, and therefore funding problems, but a large slice of our adult population continues to read our output.
By far the most worrying are the three Trinity Mirror titles. With a circulation falling close to 1.2m, the Mirror sold 9% fewer copies in December compared with the same month a year ago and has been dropping steadily over the past six months. What it lacks are adequate editorial resources. There is still a journalistic passion and a desire to carry out the reporting task, as evidenced by the bravery of Rupert Hamer and Philip Coburn in Afghanistan, leading to Hamer's death and Coburn's serious injuries.
This tragic episode illustrates that behind the sales figures, good or bad, there is a beating human heart in our newspapers. Every time I write about the continuing circulation decline I can be sure that a journalist will call or email me to point out that newspaper staff are still doing their level best day after day. I have never doubted that. Hamer and Coburn remind us why we do what we do.