Still black and white - but are newspapers read all over in 2024?

Print interviews continue to be a crucial component of our media training courses.

But do people still read newspapers? When was the last time you bought a paper?

Has print become a niche medium serving a rapidly shrinking audience?

Circulations have fallen and have been declining for years.

But rather than dying out, newspapers have evolved and attract millions of readers online – alongside those who still want a newspaper in their hands - where their trust and prestige continue to appeal.

More than 24 million people read UK news brands – a term used to reflect how newspapers now reach their audiences – every day.

That number swells to 39 million every week and 45 million every month.

And news brands appeal to the young, with 24 per cent of 18-34-year-olds consuming them daily.

So, there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.

One of the things we notice during our media skills training courses is that it can be easy to put all newspapers – and their digital versions - into one basket.

But their readerships are different, and this may impact who you target and who might cover your story. 

Readers of The Sun, for example, don’t always see the same stories as those who read The Guardian. Sometimes, the same stories are approached from different angles.

With this in mind, we have updated our guide to the UK national newspapers:

Whatever your opinion of The Sun, it was able to claim to be the country’s best-selling newspaper for 40 years. That changed in 2020 when it was overtaken by the Daily Mail amid changes in how newspapers report their circulations. The paper’s owners have opted to make its circulation figures private. But before that decision, it had similar figures to the new market leader. The Sun says it reaches more than 31 million people across digital and print every month and claims it is read by eight in 10 football fans. A common misconception about The Sun is that it is the paper of choice for ‘white van man’. But 32 per cent of its readers are from the ABC1 socio-economic group - the group made up of people with more education and better-paid jobs. And more than 400,000 readers have a family income of over £50,000. The reading age (the age at which someone should be able to read it) is between seven and nine. A YouGov survey in 2023 named The Sun as the “least trusted” news brand in the UK.

 

A newspaper that appears to never stray too far away from controversy, yet it always seems to remain hugely popular. And it is now the country’s best-selling paper. Like all newspapers, its circulation was hit by the pandemic. In March 2024, its circulation was just over 700,000. Circulation on Saturdays swells to over a million. Its digital version, Mail Plus, has a monthly average of more than 80,000 “actively viewed” copies. The Mail’s website continues to be a big draw, with its mix of news and entertainment ensuring it has 24.7m monthly unique visitors. It is also the only national newspaper with more female readers than male (a 54 to 46 per cent split). The average age of a Mail reader is 56. More than 80 per cent of Mail readers are believed to be homeowners, with 69 per cent owning their homes outright. The Mail also owns the popular This Is Money website.

 

This free morning newspaper had the largest distribution of any UK newspaper before the pandemic struck. With fewer people travelling to work, it has taken time to rebuild those figures. In March 2024, it has an average circulation of 950,000. There is success online, with more than 18 million unique visitors a month. The publication remains uniquely neutral on the big political issues and has no leading articles, opinion pieces or a Westminster reporter.

 

The workers’ paper and the Labour party’s most loyal supporter, the Daily Mirror was overtaken by The Daily Mail several years ago. And it has long since stopped being competitive with its old rival. Its circulation is now around 230,000. The picture is better online, with the website reaching more than 20 million people a month.

 

The iconic London title is another free newspaper that was hit hard by covid. Before the pandemic, its circulation was around 780,000. It is now below 300,000. The Standard has a young audience with a median age of 41. Additionally, 64 per cent of its readers are in the ABC1 group, and 69 per cent of managers and directors read the paper. It has more than 10 million online visitors and over 200,000 unique podcast listeners a month.

 

Telegraph readers are more likely to be Conservative, male and wealthy. YouGov research carried out in 2023 said 69 per cent of the paper’s readership is male and that more than a fifth are affluent. It also says that almost half the readership (49 per cent) identify as Conservative Party voters. It is another publication that now chooses not to publish its circulation figures. But the last public figure, in December 2019, was 317,000. The paper’s focus is now on paid subscribers, and in 2023 it exceeded its target of reaching one million subscriptions. An Abu Dhabi-backed bid to take over the Daily and Sunday Telegraph recently collapsed.

 

It is more than a decade since The Times put its online content behind a paywall. Now, The Times and The Sunday Times have more than 500,000 digital-only subscribers. While it has not revealed its print circulation figures since 2020, the paper says it reaches 840,000 readers Monday to Saturday. According to the British Business Survey, The Times is the number one daily newspaper for business readers and reaches 50 per cent more decision-makers than the Financial Times or the Daily Telegraph. Millennials make up a healthy fifth of its readership. Times readers have a mean family income of £55,885. The Times also now has a digital radio station.

 

The paper of choice for the intellectual left, healthcare workers and those in local government. It made its circulation private in 2021 when it had fallen to 105,000. Press Gazette estimates that if it followed industry trends, print circulation would now be 60,000. According to PAMCo – the audience measurement for publishers - The Guardian is the most-read quality news brand in the UK, cross-platform, with an average of 22.4 million unique visitors monthly. It has also developed a range of podcasts and newsletters. The publication has more than one million digital subscribers.

 

A paper with a seemingly endless supply of Princess Diana and health-scare stories (it is sometimes referred to as the Daily Diana Express), the once-mighty tabloid continues to be a fading force. Circulation has now dropped to around 150,000. Its remaining audience is elderly and is mainly based in the north. It is still right-wing and Eurosceptic in its outlook. Migrants, pensions and the weather continue to be regularly covered stories.

 

Still the new kid on the block – as the short-lived New Day quickly passed into newspaper history – its circulation is around 125,000. The paper started life as The Independent’s little sister but is now owned by the owner of the Daily Mail, who bought it for £49.6m in 2019. It is aimed at readers with limited time and attracts younger, metropolitan types, including students and those in their first job. Its website has more than nine million monthly visits.

The UK’s first national newspaper to give up print and go online-only, The Independent attracts more than 22 million monthly UK website visitors. It received more than two billion page views in 2023. Its bold move away from print has returned it to profitability as it has removed the costs of print plants and paper distribution. It has now recorded six years of profit in a row. It also runs the Indy100 website.

 

The ‘pink ‘un’ was one of the first newspapers to introduce a paywall. And it hit a milestone in 2019, announcing it has one million paying readers, with digital subscribers now accounting for more than three-quarters of its circulation. Print circulation is now just over 100,000. But the publication says it reaches more than 22 million readers every month – seven million in the UK.

Despite the complexity of some issues it covers, the FT has a reading age of around 12-14. Men make up an astonishing 81 per cent of its readership. More than 30 per cent of its readers are C-suite executives, and 75 per cent of readers work for international companies. The average reader income is £221,000. The publication leads the way for trust, according to YouGov.

Launched in 2006, City AM covers the latest financial, business and political news and had a circulation of around 85,000. Before the pandemic, it was distributed from 400 commuter hubs around London and the home counties and at more than 500 offices in the City and Canary Wharf areas. Its print operations returned as people came back to the office, and it now has a circulation of around 68,000. It reports its daily readership is just under 400,000. That readership is dominated by men, with a 60/40 male and female split. Readers have an average income of £85,000. More than 65 per cent of its readers are under 55.

 

The paper that takes a lighter-hearted look at the news and looks to lift the gloom from the news agenda. It describes itself as not being anti-Conservative or anti-Labour, but “anti-idiot”. The paper has a circulation of more than 130,000, and screengrabs of its eye-catching front pages often go viral on social media. The paper achieved great success with its ‘who will last longer’ comparison between Liz Truss and a lettuce – a battle won by the lettuce.

 

The phoenix that arose from the ashes of the News of the World, the Sun on Sunday has seamlessly inherited the older, London-based male audience of its predecessor. It no longer makes its circulation figures available, but the last published statistics showed a readership of just over one million. Press Gazette estimates that the figure would now be 600,000. Celebrities, exposés and football are still very much the order of the day.

 

The big, brash and dominant player in the Sunday quality market. More than 30 per cent of its readers are in the over-65 age range, and 35 per cent of them live in London. The paper is known for its exposés and its business stories; in fact, the British Business Survey describes it as the “number one quality Sunday paper for business owners”. Anything to do with aspiration and advancement, ranging from property to education, is good for The Sunday Times.

 

With a reputation for being more conservative than its weekly counterpart, it is perhaps not surprising that almost half of the Sunday Telegraph’s readers are in the 65 and over age bracket. Its most recent circulation figures, published in December 2019, stood at 244,000. It is estimated that the figure would now be 125,000. Alongside investigative stories are features about the countryside and issues affecting the middle classes. Its business coverage is well respected. And its comment pages are favoured by the intellectual right.

Like most Sunday newspapers, The Mail on Sunday relies on a mix of exposés and publicist-placed celebrity stories. Features about health and beauty are also prominent. Its current circulation is 600,000 – about half of where it was in October 2017. But it remains powerful and its coverage can often set the agenda for the week.

 

Founded in 1881, the Sunday People is one of Britain’s oldest Sunday newspapers. But its circulation has now fallen to 57,000, which is below that of City AM in London. The paper also now shares the same editor as the Sunday Mirror. And the two publications share the same content, with only front pages and pages four and five changing.

 

The Sunday Mirror is another title with a worrying circulation fall, now standing at 175,000, falling below 200,000 for the first time in 2023. In 2000, it had a circulation of two million.

 

As with its daily sister title The Guardian, The Observer is the preferred paper of the dinner partying left. Stories about social injustice feature prominently alongside extensive arts coverage. Its last circulation published circulation was 136,000 in July 2021. It is estimated that if its readership followed the trends of the rest of the industry, that figure would now be 80,000.

 

How do you give a good print interview?

So, we’ve guided you through who you will be talking to in a newspaper interview.

But what else do you need to know to give a good print interview and make the most of the opportunity they present to reach millions?

Here are a few tips from our media training courses.

 

Prepare properly

Print interviews may not have the glamour of live radio or TV interviews.

But they are not an easy option. And you must prepare properly.

Make sure you know the message you want to get across and carefully consider the difficult questions that could be asked.

And do your homework on the reporter, their publication and the stories they cover.

 

Be quotable

Whether it’s a news or feature interview, you must offer something interesting to the story and help the journalist tell it.

Put messages into your own words and use personal stories and anecdotes to help bring them to life and make your content relatable.

Think about what you would like to read yourself saying.

Metaphors and analogies are another excellent way of adding colour and interest.

Remember, if you don’t have anything interesting to say, what you don’t say can become the focus.

 

Call time

Print interviews can take much more time than broadcast ones.

A radio interview can be as little as two minutes. A television one will typically be a few minutes longer.

Print interviews don’t have the same time constraints. And can take a more detailed look at the subject, as well as other topics.

If it is a news interview rather than a feature one, try bringing the conversation to an end once you are confident you have got your message across.

 

Clarity

If your print interview takes place over the phone, avoid the temptation to do it on a speakerphone.

The sound quality is much poorer, and what you say could be misunderstood.

Similarly, using a landline removes the connection issues that can become a frustration for you and the journalist.

 

Don’t ask for copy approval

It can be tempting to ask to see the article before it is published. 

But the question is typically not well received.

Journalists are not keen on allowing the spokesperson to become the editor.

And the implied lack of trust does not help build long-term relationships with reporters.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our media training.

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