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ABC circulation figures show price matters – and a bright idea helps too

Contrasting circulation story of the Financial Times and the i gives pointers on how to achieve newspaper success

A happy new year in Fleet Street? Certainly for some, when you scan January’s ABC circulation results. The tabloid red-tops all produced clear month-on-month gains over a grim December (with with the Bun, adding 230,000 copies or 8.7%, taking the cream). No instant rush of public revulsion there. Even the poor, put-upon Daily Mail climbed back over 2m again.

But the messages become more individual higher up the list. Does a row about Scottish independence help Scotland’s struggling Herald and Scotsman? A bit: they both edge up after a long slide down. Is there any resilience in the quality market? Perhaps, as the Daily Telegraph gains 10,000 or so full-price copies over December (while the Guardian and Times seem to transfer some of their full-price sales over into subscriptions).

The big question, though, features thick and thin, plump and skinny, in intriguing contrast. The Independent’s stripped-down i managed a 9.74% month-on-month surge to 243,321 copies a day. That’s 82% up in a year. Maybe its place in the advertising pantheon isn’t clear yet. Maybe it needs constant promotion and spin and maybe there are 43,000 bulk giveaways in that total. But it’s still a good example of what a bright print idea can achieve – if you only charge 20p a time.

Over in the world of plump and pink, there’s the FT – at £2.50 per weekday and £3 on Saturday, prices rammed up through 2011 as the joys of digital subscription revenue seemed to burgeon. But what has that meant in an era of huge importance for financial news? Year-on-year sales down 16.53%, and 4.2% on December, the worst result anywhere. Over 50,000 foreign copies have gone missing in 12 months.

Well, of course, that’s one result of online transition. You’re throwing away dead trees and reaching for very live wires – 900,000 a day via Yet, as the rumour mill suddenly starts to churn over the FT‘s future once Dame Marjorie Scardino, its valiant defender at Pearson, retires, you can also see cause for thought. Thomson Reuters or Bloomberg might like the FT as a trophy to front their own financial services, it’s said. The strength of the brand may be worth a great deal. But doesn’t that brand rather signify words on paper? Lord Thomson and Michael Bloomberg can do words on screen by the million. If they’re bidding, it will be for something they haven’t got, not a transition too far. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds