Media training: Black, white and read all over

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Black, white and read all over

If you’re preparing to do a media interview you need to be absolutely clear about who you’re talking to.

While broadcasters have obligations to remain impartial, newspapers have very few such constraints and each of our national newspapers has its own idiosyncratic style.

This means that when it comes to print, it is crucial that you and your spokesperson tailor messages, language and examples.

If you are talking to the Daily Mail, something delegates on our media training courses often like to prepare for, the style would be very different from what would work for the Financial Times.

Similarly what might work well for The Sun will be completely wrong for The Guardian.

It can be even more subtle. If you work for a pharma company, for instance, you’d want to say one thing when talking to the health editor of the Guardian but something slightly different if you’re being interviewed by the paper’s business editor.

Here’s our guide to the audiences of some of the newspapers in the UK:


The Sun

Whatever your opinion of The Sun, it remains the country’s most read paid-for newspaper with more than 3.6 million of us reading it every day. A common misconception is that it is the paper of choice for the chav, but 1.2 million of its readers are from the ABC1 socio-economic group (see guide below). This is the group made up of people with more education and better-paid jobs. Its website attracts 5.2 million unique browsers every day. The reading age (in other words the age at which someone should be able to read it) is between seven and nine.


The Daily Mail

A newspaper which appears to never stray too far away from controversy, yet it remains the most popular English language newspaper website in the world, attracting 15.4 million daily unique browsers. It is also the only national newspaper which has more female readers than male (somewhere between 52-55% according to surveys). More than 3.2 million people read the printed version of the Mail every day. The average age of a Mail reader is 58 and it has the lowest percentage of millennial audience make-up at just 14%.



This free morning newspaper is now the country’s third most read daily print paper with a daily audience of more than 3 million, according to figures from the National Readership Survey. The paper remains uniquely neutral on the big political issues and has no leading articles, opinion pieces or a Westminster reporter. And there is success online too as it is now the fastest-growing national newspaper website with 2.6 million daily unique browsers.


Daily Mirror

The workers’ paper and the Labour party’s most loyal supporter, the Daily Mirror was overtaken by the Mail several years ago and its daily readership now stands at 1.6 million. Perhaps surprisingly, 559,000 of these are in the ABC1 category. Interestingly, it is attracting a younger audience with those in the millennial age range forming 29% of its audience – the joint highest percentage with The Sun. The Mirror attracts more online readers than its traditional tabloid rival with 5.5 million daily unique browsers.


London Evening Standard

Now under the editorship of former chancellor George Osborne this local paper for the capital continues to have a national newspaper status. Its fortunes have risen since it went free and it mixes serious issues with stories about the metropolitan glitterati, while Osborne appears to enjoy a dig at the Tory government. More than 1.6 million of us read the Standard every day, more than a million of which are in the ABC1 category. Its website attracts just under 1 million daily unique users.


The Daily Telegraph

You may not be surprised to read that the Telegraph, with its traditional conservative reputation, has the oldest average readership in the country at 61. Also, fairly predictably, it has the second lowest percentage of print audience under 34, at just 15%. The Telegraph, which regards itself as the favoured journal of the Church of England, has 1.1 million daily readers and just over 5 million daily unique website browsers.


The Times

The Times has a daily readership of just over 1 million and virtually all of it is in the ABC1 category. According to the British Business Survey, The Times is the number one daily newspaper for business readers and reaches 50% more decision makers than the Financial Times or the Daily Telegraph. Millennials make up a healthy fifth of its readership. The Times’ online content is hidden behind a paywall which subscribers pay £6 a week to access.


The Guardian

The paper of choice for the intellectual left, healthcare worker and those in local government. The Guardian has a daily readership of just under 900,000. It boasts the second lowest average age reader at just 44 and an impressive 28% of its readers are under 34. The Guardian claimed to have had a record 1.2 billion page views on its website in June 2017. The paper abandoned its Berliner format and became a tabloid in January 2018.


Daily Express

A paper which appears to have an endless supply of Princess Diana and health-scare stories, the Express continues to be a fading force. Readership has now dropped to 800,000. Its remaining audience is elderly but not impoverished and is mainly based in the North. It is still very right wing in its outlook and migrants, pensions and the weather continue to be regularly covered stories. The Express was brought by Trinity Mirror (owners of the Daily Mirror) in February 2018. The new owners have pledged it will retain its identity.



Still the new kid on the block – as the short-lived New Day has already been and passed into newspaper history – the i has just under half a million daily readers. The paper started life as The Independent’s little sister but is now owned by the publishers of the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman. It is aimed at readers with limited time and attracts younger, metropolitan types, including a number of students and those in their first job.



The UK’s first national newspaper to give up print and go online only, The Independent attracts more than 6 million daily unique browsers. Its bold move away from print has returned it to profitability as it has removed the costs of print plants and paper distribution. Time will tell if other publications are contemplating a similar move. The Independent has the lowest average reader age at 43.


The Financial Times

The ‘pink ‘un’ recently announced it has a record 650,000 digital subscribers. Print circulation is just over 60,000, of which more than 20,000 are bulk copies distributed at hotels and airports. The rest of its print circulation is in Europe (59,000), Asia (27,575) and the US. Despite the complexity of some of the issues it covers, the FT has a reading age of around 12-14. Men make up an astonishing 81% of its readership.


The Sun on Sunday

The phoenix which 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. With a readership of more than 3.2 million, celebrities, exposés and football are still very much order of the day.


The Sunday Times

The big, brash and dominant player in the Sunday quality market, The Sunday Times has a readership of 1.8 million. More than 30% of its readers are in the over-65 age range and 35% 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.


The Sunday Telegraph

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. It has a readership of more than 1.1 million which is pretty evenly split between men and women. Alongside investigative stories are jolly 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.


The Mail on Sunday

The Mail on Sunday is the most read Sunday paper with a slightly higher readership than the Sun On Sunday at 3.3 million. Like most Sunday newspapers it relies on a mix of exposés and publicist-placed celebrity stories. Features about health and beauty are also prominent. Almost half of its readers are in London and the Midlands and 43% are aged 65 and over.


Sunday People

A paper with a steadily shrinking circulation, although this was briefly halted by the closure of the News of the World. The Sunday People now has a readership of 1.1 million with more than a fifth of them living in the North West. Just under half of its readers are in the 65 and over age range. On the left of the political spectrum, it relies on human interest stories and celebrity interviews.


Sunday Mirror

The Sunday Mirror has seen a worrying circulation fall of more than 17% in the past year, but still has a total readership of more than 1.6 million. The paper is respected among journalists for its scoops and recently ran a campaign to make Twitter take action to prevent paedophiles from using the service to exchange obscene images.


The Observer

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 readership now stands at just over 800,000 with 36% of those living in London.


ABC social grade classifications

A - Higher managerial, administrative and professional - 4% of population

B - Intermediate managerial, administrative and professional  - 23% of population

C1 - Supervisory, clerical and junior managerial, administrative and professional

C2 - Skilled manual workers - 20% of population

D - Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers - 15% of population

E - State pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers, unemployed with state benefits only  - 10% of population


This article first appeared in our magazine In This Issue. Download your free copy here.  


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