Dead tree circulation continues to decline – Belfast Telegraph dropping at nearly twice rate of News Letter & Irish News

Looking at the latest set of newspaper circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) – July to December 2011 – it is once again a story of decline. You’re unlikely to read anything about this in today’s papers!

Table showing circulation decline for Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, News Letter and Irish Times - up to date with second half 2011 figures

For the last few years, the Belfast Telegraph has performed better in the first half of each year. However, its overall trend is still down.

With an average audited circulation of 53,771 copies in the second half of 2011, the Belfast Telegraph figures show a dip of 8.1% when compared with the same period in 2010. If this pattern continues, the Belfast Telegraph circulation will fall below 50,000 by the end of this year.

Its nearest northern rival – the Irish News – is shedding readers less quickly – down 5.2% on the same period in 2010.

A similar story for the News Letter, though from a lower starting point. 22,548 copies in the latest audited circulation.

The Dublin-based Irish Times dipped below 100,000 for the first time, having lost 20,000 readers in the last five years.

Chart showing circulation decline for Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, News Letter and Irish Times - up to date with second half 2011 figures

I posted this time last year that if simple linear trend lines were added to the circulation graph, sales of the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph would collide in the near future. The point of intersection has moved out a little – towards the second half of 2013 – but it is still a distinct possibility that the Irish News will overtake its Cathedral Quarter neighbour if the Belfast Telegraph continues to haemorrhage readers.

A more sophisticated trend calculation is kinder, and keeps clear water between the publications for a lot longer.

Thank goodness audited circulation doesn’t extend to blogs …

Update – the Irish News does reference the figures on p25 this morning (behind a paywall), under the headline “Figures show Irish News still outperforming rivals“.

… when free and discounted copies are taken out, actual “paid for” daily sales of the Tele stand at 42,761 – just 900 more than the equivalent Irish news figure at 41,688.

The Belfast Telegraph’s masthead claim to be “Northern Ireland’s Daily Newspaper” may indeed be be short-lived.

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