Two years after the tipping point, papers’ web readership is booming

As newspapers’ print circulation continues to decline, publishers now get the majority of their readers online. But what does that look like in practise?

I crunched ABC and ABCe (UK) data for the last 12 years to discover the long view.

The following chart shows the average daily print circulation and average daily unique browser count for the only six UK publishers which have routinely disclosed each figure (The Sun, Trinity Mirror’s nationals, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent). Hover your cursor to explore…

[dataset id=”723654″]

(Using print circulation rather than print readership, which is higher, is not necessarily a perfect equivalent to online unique browsers, but it may be the best available).

Now we can firmly pinpoint the date at which the readership tipping point apparently occurred for these publishers – November 2010 (after a brief earlier overtake in January that year).

Two years after the crossover, print circulation is declining at broadly the same rate it has for the last eight years. But web readership’s growth goes on accelerating.

The industry’s dilemma is – publishers’ money has not reached the same crossover. All still get the vast majority of their money from that declining print base. To adjust, some like News International’s Times Newspapers are introducing more charges, whilst others like Guardian News & Media are seeking even more readers to bring in advertiser sales.

In a world of diminishing online ad rates, some question that strategy. Fortunately, however, the web audience is now growing much faster than the flight of dead-tree readers is occurring.