In the six months period July-December 2002 broadsheets (excluding Sunday titles) sold 348,698 copies per day, but this fell by 12,487 copies a day to 336,211 during the same period in 2003, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures, released yesterday. This represents a fall of 3.7%.
The Irish Independent saw the number of papers sold at full cover-price (the most important indicator from an advertising industry standpoint) fall by 8,587 copies a day (-5.8%) while the Irish Examiner fell by 2,826 copies per day. The Irish Times fully paid-for circulation declined by 5,329 copies in the corresponding six months period in 2002 and in the July-December 2003 period recovered by 3,109 copies a day. According to ABC rules, circulation figures may include copies sold or distributed in Northern Ireland, the rest of Britain and other countries.
Both the Irish Independent and the Irish Times circulate in Northern Ireland and Britain, but how much these sales contribute to the overall circulation figure is not known, as the ABC data is not broken down by area, or country.
Advertisers cannot therefore know precisely the level of Republic of Ireland sales of either the Irish Independent or the Irish Times.
Apart from limited overseas subscriptions, Irish Examiner sales are in the Republic only.
In 2002 the Irish Independent came under scrutiny from its own stockbrokers and the advertising industry, when its bulk sales (copies which may be bought by third parties at a discount and are often given away free of charge) rose dramatically, while its fully paid-for sales fell.
With bulk sales of 21,165 a day, the newspaper denied allegations that it was dumping copies to artificially inflate its circulation. Figures for the period July-December 2003 show that while on the one hand the Independent reduced its bulk sales by 1,511 copies a day to 19,654, this was more than offset by a huge hike in copies sold below basic cover price (to airlines, third level colleges etc) from 278 to 2,140 per day.
In the same period the Irish Examiner significantly reduced its daily bulk sales by 2,477 (-33.4%) - from 7,415 a day to 4,938, with a negligible increase of 87 daily sales below basic cover price. Irish Examiner marketing manager Mairead Maher said: “We use bulk copies and sales at below basic cover price in a very targeted, strategic manner as part of the overall marketing mix.”
The Irish Times also reduced its bulk sales by 1,367 - from 3,389 to 2,022 - and reduced its below basic cover-price sales from 4,602 per day to 3,825.
The reduction in the Irish Examiner’s sampling activity by 2,477 copies a day was a significant contributor to the overall circulation fall of 5,216 copies a day to 59,412.
The Irish Independent’s overall circulation volume fell during the period by 8,236 copies a day, or 4.9%, while the Irish Times circulation rose by 965 copies a day.
The actively purchased percentage of Irish Times sales is 98.3%, while the comparable figure for the Irish Independent is 87.8% and for the Irish Examiner it is 91.7%.