The Riddle of those Herald Sales and Readership Figures

If industry observers have been perhaps taken by surprise this morning that the Herald & Times Group should choose to claim today that sales of its Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times titles are “bucking the media industry [sales] trend” – a week after the publication of regional newspaper sales figures and a fortnight following publication of the latest batch of monthly and year-on-year circulations for national newspapers – the clue is to be found in MediaWeek magazine and HoldtheFrontPage media website.

According to a report in MediaWeek, the long-established National Readership Survey is said to have revealed a readership fall of 39 per cent for The Herald between July last year and June this year, a 28 per cent fall for its stablemate, the Sunday Herald, over the same timeframe, and a 22 per cent drop for its other sister title, the Evening Times.

Translated, readerships of, as of June this year, 130,000, 121,000 and 139,000.

But, reports HoldtheFrontPage, the figures are prompting Herald & Times Group boss, Tim Blott, to say he is going to lodge a complaint.

He is quoted saying: “I am going to complain strongly about the process. I can't see the correlation between our circulation and the readership figure by NRS.”

He is further quoted, saying: “Since the arrival of Jonathan Russell as editor, The Herald has experienced a surge in sales culminating in its recent best year-on-year sales performance. The Sunday Herald, as recent ABC figures show was the only national quality Sunday to actually grow sales year on year (+4.61 per cent).

“Whilst I appreciate the NRS is the accepted industry currency vis-a-vis readership data, it is hugely frustrating to challenge the latest readership figures which are diametrically opposed to our most recent sales figures.

“I would therefore have to disagree that there has been a steep fall in total readership, although it is becoming increasingly obvious that the reading behaviour of our audience is changing, as witnessed by other newspaper titles.

“Where once readers used to buy at least three out of four issues, they are now presented with an online version of our brand as an alternative. The Herald's total audience – both in print and online – has risen by 95 per cent in the last five years.”