Apologies for this media focused blogpost outside the weekend slots, but today, the British company which compiles and audits circulation figures for Irish newspapers has published its statistics for the six months ending 31st December 2012 – not available online yet without subscription. Below is the summary of the main national daily, evening and Sunday papers, courtesy of Ciaran Tannam. You can check individual titles for December 2012 on the ABC website here – just enter the title and click on the certificate.
The picture is universally abysmal and proprietors and journalists will today be contemplating the black-and-white evidence of the death-rattle of their produce. Because this is Ireland, and the climate induces us to suffer from Small Dog Syndrome, they might consider themselves unique but according to one US study some 150 newspapers folded worldwide in 2011. And Ireland just has too many titles for a market of just 4.6m in the Republic and 1.8m in Northern Ireland. Consolidation should have been taking place long ago, but egos and vanities are reality-resistant but in the long term, they’re not enough to be reality-proof.
The spiral of declining circulation-declining advertising-declining investment, continues and indeed appears to be accelerating in the instance of most titles.
It seems obvious that the Evening Echo and Evening Herald are toast, except for an online presence with enhanced listings. The Examiner is the weakest of the dailies and its most compatible bed-fellow is the Irish Times and a merger now seems an inevitability. There is no Sunday edition of the Irish Times, just a weekend edition sold on Saturdays, so there might be an opening for a quality new Sunday paper built around the core of the Sunday Business Post, which is already practically a fully-fledged Sunday read. The Independent and Sunday Independent seem destined for the bin unless there is investment to stem the loss of readers, and the as a keen reader of both, the deterioration in standards is noticeable.
The betting had been that both the Independent and Irish Times would place their content behind pay-walls in 2013; this, after coming to the conclusion that online advertising will never be sufficient to cover the cost of the production of online content and the loss of paid newspaper sales.
I wonder would anyone really care very much if either went behind a pay-wall. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and a pay-wall protecting commoditized news is as strong as the outlets that will remain free.
We’d still have RTE, plus a smattering of radio stations whose websites carry news stories and of course, we’d still have the Irish Examiner and its sister, the Daily Business Post. We’d have the BBC, the Financial Times and for property, CoStar and Property Week. You’d also have blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and given the nature of the Internet, you have access to direct sources; after all, why bother reading a review of the CSO’s latest indices on property prices – unless the review is really good and places the figures in context and provides rich analysis – when you just have to click on the CSO website to look at the data yourself for free.
Lastly, you may be having some difficulty squaring the ABC sales figures issued today with the JNRS readership survey issued last week which claimed that readership of newspapers had increased strongly – that survey is almost incredible.