|Publication||ABC total for April (from start of lockdown)||ABC total for March (2-22) 2020||% change month-on-month|
|The Sun on Sunday||Private||1,013,777|
|The Mail on Sunday||836,743||952,914||-12%|
|Evening Standard FREE||423,285||700,191||-40%|
|The Sunday Times||Private||647,622|
|Daily Star – Sunday||144,251||163,695||-12%|
Certain newspapers, the Telegraph and all of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, no longer announce their sales figures. We are told of “publisher concerns that monthly ABC circulation reports provide a stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline.” Eh? Presumably, no one can write about the decline in newspaper sales because they won’t know what the sales are. Bullshit. The correct wording should be along the lines of ‘newspaper sales are in freefall and we don’t want anyone to see by how much’.
What we do know is this: the top selling newspaper in the land is now the Daily Mail with sales of 944,981, having leaked 17% of it readers in the month since lockdown began. We know this because the decline in sales of the Sun was so rapid, this month was the one in which it lost its position as Britain’s top selling newspaper. Put two and two together, friends.
But should we really be celebrating these huge falls in newspaper sales? Isn’t the cultural life of our country enhanced by a prosperous free press? The answers are yes and yes and no, although it is more nuanced than that.
First, do we really have a free press? I don’t think so. All our newspapers, except the Guardian and Observer, are owned by billionaire individuals and companies. Their content is tightly controlled by their owners and editorial departments in line with what their owners say. A scandal sheet like the Sun prints hard right copy with hard right columnists, pumping Rupert Murdoch’s ideology. There is nothing free or independent about the Sun, or any of the other gutter newspapers.
Second, is our cultural life enhanced by a prosperous free press? I’d say it would be if we had one, but as we don’t, it doesn’t. And, given the terminal decline in newspaper sales – this is not a terrible aberration, like we hope COVID-19 will be – it’s far too late so save it.
“You know that it would be untrue,” said Jim Morrison. “You know that I would be a liar” if I was to deny that I feel a high degree of schadenfreude when I hear about the collapsing sales of the Sun and Mail in particular. (He didn’t say the last bit.) In my small-minded world, I glory in their failure. The scumbags who hacked a dead girl’s telephone and lied about Hillsborough deserve no sympathy and, quite frankly, neither do those who work for the Sun and might one day lose their jobs. They knew what they were coming into. If there is such a thing as karma – spoiler alert: there isn’t – this would be it, a win for hope over hate.
As the saying goes, we’re all in it together. If none of us buy those horrible newspapers, they’ll disappear down the sewer once and for all. You know it makes sense.