I'm a curious animal when it comes to newspapers. Having worked in my time for both national and regional titles, I never really got into the habit of buying a daily paper. And, when I later worked at advertising agencies, there were always plenty knocking around if I wanted to have a quick flick through their pages. As such, I am in no way a typical customer to the newspaper industry.
That said, I still enjoy a browse on a Sunday or of an evening. And, it would seem, plenty of people here in the UK still seem to, despite the unrelenting march of the web, regularly buy a daily newspaper. The latest ABC figures for the qualities (copies sold + year on year percentage loss in circulation).....
The Daily Telegraph: 744,151,-5.65
Financial Times: 401,072, -9.20
The Guardian: 305,240, -14.83
The Independent: 186,557, -7.24
The Scotsman: 46,300, -7.78
The Times: 563,262, -9.42
Independent on Sunday: 156,517, -5.75
The Observer: 372,669, -16.06
Scotland on Sunday: 58,595, -6.10
Sunday Herald: 43,173, -0.79
The Sunday Telegraph: 577,201, -4.00
The Sunday Times: 1,171,457, -4.26
(the larger circulation falls at The Guardian and The Observer is mainly due to their decision in August to stop distributing 'bulks' - copies readers can pick up free from hotels, airlines and gyms)
....suggest that we have a long way to go before the masses choose to read their news off a screen in preference to having a newspaper in their hands.
And, if you look at the popular/mid-market dailies, it is clear that their readership isn't really going anywhere else fast. The Mirror took a hit because of its cover price, but look at The Star! It's UP 15%!
Daily Mirror: 1,260,019, -10.01
Daily Record:323,051, -10.72
Daily Star: 823,476, 15.30
The Sun: 2,958,502, -2.87
Daily Express: 685,195, -8.91
Daily Mail: 2,148,571, -0.70
Daily Star Sunday: 354,386, 2.15
News of the World: 2,923,355, -7.30
Sunday Mail: 392,174, -13.24
Sunday Mirror: 1,148,244, -8.52
The People: 533,782, -10.41
Sunday Express: 594,517, -11.33
The Mail on Sunday: 2,071,526, -4.16
Yes, the technically-savvy will tell you that the days of the newspaper are numbered, but the figures above suggest otherwise. There are still an awful lot of people who buy a daily newspaper. And, interestingly, The London Evening Standard, in its first month as a freebie, distributed just under 600,000 copies a day.
No one can deny that they have been hit hard by loss of advertising revenue, and at local and regional level I expect there to be many casualties sooner rather than later, not least as, to add to their woes, during a recession it's generally the little extras like the local weekly and the regional daily that people knock on the head. But, if you consider that we are indeed in the midst of a recession, an average year on year loss of circulation of just over 9% which includes the unusually large Guardian drop for the reason mentioned above, is not actually that bad. In short I think you can safely say that is going to be a wee while yet before we are all putting the last ever copy of The Times or Telegraph in cotton wool and shoving it up in our loft for posterity.
In short, where the papers are concerned, old habits die hard. There really is nothing like the feel of a newspaper in your hands, despite them being full of reality tv and airhead celebrities. As long as there are commuters there will be newspapers (unless buses and trains get chair back internet installed). Go to the toilet with a laptop? Lounge around on a Sunday with a blackberry? Not me, how about you?
PS - One last figure for you. Add the circulations of all English dailies and times by 2.5 for actual readership (and that's a conservative estimate) and you get over 26 million people a day reading a paper. That's an awful lot of the UK adult population you know.