Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Influencial are the Media?

The Economist published a very interesting graph (see left), showing the breakdown of newspaper readership by region. The most eye-catching statistic is how the readership of the broadsheets is concentrated in London and the South-East - nearly 60% of the readers of The Guardian, Independent and Times are in London and the South East, the figure for the Telegraph is about 50%.

The 2001 Census shows the population of London to be 7,172,091 and the population of the South-East to be 8,000,645, making a total of some 14 million out of a population of circa 60 million - in other words just 24% of the UK population lives in these regions.

Which means we should rethink our beliefs about how important these papers are. For instance when Matthew Parris does another of his anti-Labour pieces in The Times, he is mainly talking to Tories in Surrey, rather than influencing the national conversation.

In addition, the readership of these papers is not that large. According to the NRS, the average readership of newspapers is currently as follows:

The Sun 7,840,000
Daily Mail 5,253,000
Daily Mirror/Record 4,937,000
Daily Telegraph 2,117,000
Daily Express 1,742,000
The Times 1,730,000
Daily Star 1,620,000
The Guardian 1,239,000
The Independent 767,000
Financial Times 394,000

The conclusion has to be that the most influential papers in terms of spread of readers around the country and numbers sold are The Sun, The Mail and The Mirror. Of these only The Mail is increasing readership (thanks to giving out free CDs). The rest (including the broadsheets) are dwindling. Regional newspapers are also shrinking.

Television isn't doing that well either. While OfCom confirms that 73% of the population gets their news from television, viewing figures are plummeting. In 1995, BBC1 commanded a 32% audience share, it was down to 22.7% in 2005. ITV went from 37% in 1995 to 20% in 2005. Sky News is trying it's best but managed to reach just 0.5% of viewers in 2005. My guess is that people listen to the first couple of items on the 6 O'clock news, and then switch off.

More people are also likely to be getting their news from the web. Before bloggers and their ilk get excited, note that most people who log on arn't interested in news at all. So the news they get from the web in the main depends on what home page the net user sees when they first log on - eg Yahoo, Orange, Google News etc. These pages will list a mix of brief headlines, plus lots of celebrity gossip and lots of tech news about the latest gadget (iPhone, Wii etc). The net user will cast a swift eye over this, and then go on to their main business, whether banking or shopping. Some people will have logged on to actively seek out a news site such as the BBC or the online version of the national newspapers. For political parties, this may mean that they should be trying to get their items onto Yahoo, or Google News.

It may also mean that old fashioned methods of campaigning such as leaflets become important, especially when trying to get local issues across, as these arn't covered anywhere else and pushing something through someone's door may be the only way to get their attention.

No comments: