The person hiding behind a Financial Times on the tube is likely to be a man of the upper-middle or middle classes and under the age of 45, according to the National Readership Survey produced by pollsters at Ipsos MORI. Next to him the commuter perusing the bare breasts jutting from page three of the Sun is almost certainly working-class, ten years younger, and, as the circulation of Britain’s “red-top” tabloids falls, an ever rarer find.
Sales of the Sun, Britain’s most widely read newspaper, fell by 3% in the 12 months to January, according to ABC, which audits the circulation of newspapers and magazines. Copies sold by its smaller rival, the Mirror, declined by 6%.
At first glance these numbers seem old-hat, for newspaper sales have been falling for four decades. In part this reflects the increasing importance of television: seven out of ten British homes now get dozens of channels, usually by cable or satellite. Another reason is the internet: three-fifths of adults are now online regularly, compared with a third six years ago. Both make available at no extra charge much of the news and gossip that people used to pay for.
But red-tops, unlike most “quality” newspapers, are shedding readers at an accelerating pace. Paul Zwillenberg, of
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