Daily Mail falls below 900k but stays top of pack with Metro as Lennox drops by 20 per cent

Newspapers used to count their readers in millions and the number of copies they sold in multiplied millions and  hundreds of thousands.

Local newspapers were a must in every household in the community they served. Thousands of copies were sold each week, sometimes twice a week.

The 150-year-old plus Lennox Herald, for example, once had a 78 per cent household penetration in Dumbarton and Vale of Leven. Hundreds of copies were sold in Helensburgh and Cardross, which has its own local paper, the Helensburgh Advertiser.

The County Reporter, which eventually became the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter at one stage sold nearly 10,000 copies each week.

Now the Lennox Herald limps along on a figure of 2,561, which is down from 3,164 on the previous year. That is an almost 20 per cent drop in sales.  They have closed their local office and their printworks, like so many others, closed in the 1970s.

The Reporter sells even less, although there are no official figures available for that.

At national level,  Charlotte Tobitt and Aisha Majid report in the UK Press Gazette, the country’s top trade paper, that The Daily Mail’s print circulation has fallen below 900,000 for the first time in more than 100 years.

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In February the newspaper sold an average of 896,455 copies each day – or 767,021 on weekdays and 1,449,049 on Saturdays – following a month-on-month drop of 1% and year-on-year decline of 7%.

The Daily Mail launched in 1896 with sales of 397,215. Within its first few years it surpassed one million and, despite a brief drop in 1915 in a row with the Government over troops’ munition supplies, remained above that mark until the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sister title Mail on Sunday had an average circulation of 767,756 in February, down 2% month-on-month and 10% year-on-year.

The Sun, for many years the Daily Mail’s closest ABC rival, no longer publishes its circulation – but the Mail overtook the red-top for the first time in 42 years in 2020.

The most-circulated national newspaper remains the free Metro, with a distribution of 1,066,327 that was up compared to both the month and year prior.

By contrast, fellow free newspaper the Evening Standard was down 9% year-on-year to 448,043.

The biggest annual declines were at Reach’s Sunday People (95,637, down 20%) and Daily Star Sunday (107,478, down 19%). Reach is the owner of the Dumbarton Lennox Herald and the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail  plus other weekly titles.

The new graphs charting the ups and downs of the UK national press in the past 20 years are here:

National newspaper circulations in February 2022 (ABC) with monthly and yearly changes: 

The column for bulks refers to copies which are circulated for free at venues such as airports and hotels.

The above figures do not include the Sun, Times and Telegraph titles which have all chosen to keep their ABC circulations private since the start of 2020. The Guardian and Observer joined them in September 2021.

The last ABC figures we have for these titles are as follows:

  • The Sun: 1,210,915 (March 2020)
  • The Sun on Sunday: 1,013,777 (March 2020)
  • The Sunday Times: 647,622 (March 2020)
  • The Times: 365,880 (March 2020)
  • Daily Telegraph: 317,817 (December 2019)
  • Sunday Telegraph: 248,288 (December 2019)
  • The Observer: 136,656 (July 2021)
  • The Guardian: 105,134 (July 2021)

2021 in focus

These charts show UK national newspaper circulation over the past 12 months.

They should be seen in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit the UK from March 2020. Free daily Metro was by far the hardest hit as commuters disappeared from train stations and other key locations almost overnight. Circulation had started to bounce back as publisher DMGT ramped up distribution again, but the title faced a small slump in circulation in November 2020 and a larger one again in January 2021 – coinciding with the start of England’s second and third lockdowns. In May 2021 it returned to distributing 1 million copies per day.


We have also charted the longer-term change in ABC circulation over the past 20 years across the UK press.

These charts show the extent of the print decline from The Sun reaching 3.76m in 2000 and the Sun on Sunday’s launch in February 2012 with a short-lived 3.21m before dropping to just above 2m.

Meanwhile, though the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail once were competitive in print reach at around 2.3m-2.4m in 2000, the Mail now has a circulation three times the size of its former rival.

The Sunday tabloids all saw a spike in 2011 after the closure of the News of the World but few retained the readers – the Sunday People and Sunday Mirror did best at doing so, but largely lost them when the Sun on Sunday launched.

These charts will be updated each month to include the latest figures.

January 2022

The Daily Mail was the only paid-for national newspaper to grow its circulation from December to January.

It reported 1% growth month-on-month, while its year-on-year decline of 5% to 909,201 was the smallest among the paid-for newspapers that don’t use bulk copies.

The Financial Times grew by 17% year-on-year to 113,817 while the i grew by 1% to 142,598. Excluding bulk copies given away for free at locations such as airports and hotels, the FT grew by 3% to 79,446 and the i stayed steady on 137,483.

The biggest year-on-year decline was at Reach’s Daily Star Sunday, which fell by 19% to 110,133. Month-on-month, the biggest decline was at the FT, which dropped by 18%.

Metro stayed steady between December and January but reported a 72% year-on-year jump. It built back its free distribution, which was massively scaled back in the early pandemic, and crossed the 1 million mark once again in May last year.

December 2021

The Daily Star’s circulation has fallen below 200,000 for the first time in its 43-year history.

The tabloid had an average daily readership of 197,998 in December, according to the latest ABC figures, following a 2% month-on-month drop and a 14% decline since a year earlier.

The figures show continuing print readership decline as the lowest the Star’s circulation had gone during the first Covid-19 lockdown was 219,275 in April 2020.

It follows Reach stablemate Sunday People’s circulation falling below 100,000 in November.

In December the Daily Star Sunday and Sunday People saw the biggest annual circulation drops of 20% and 19% respectively.

The only paid-for newspaper to grow year-on-year was the Financial Times, which has upped the number of bulk copies given away for free since last year. However it still fell 2% month-on-month with bulk copies, newsstand sales and subscriptions all down in December.

The only newspaper to see month-on-month growth was City AM, which returned to print in September and in December was distributing an average of 78,418 copies each day compared to 85,738 in February 2020.

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