Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Sunday Giant That's Just Taken a Tumble; MEDIA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Sunday Giant That's Just Taken a Tumble; MEDIA

Article excerpt


FOR many years The Sunday Times has appeared to be invulnerable.

While its rivals have struggled with falling sales it has slowly built circulation, added to its pagination and attracted sufficient advertisers to enable its owners to fund the extraordinary losses endured by its daily stablemate, The Times.

It has been widely regarded as immune to the national newspaper industry's problems. "The Sunday Times is the Sunday papers" boasted its advertising slogan, meaning "take us and you need no other".

Though critics have spoken of its intimidating bulk, its editor of 12 years, John Witherow, could afford to smile, as did his predecessor, Andrew Neil.

The multi-section format has been a plus, enabling the whole family to read the paper at the same time and making it easy to discard unwanted parts.

Anyway, quantity is no bad thing.

As that late Sunday Times executive Tony Bambridge used to say, there is merit in unread copy. People like to know important editorial content is there even if they never quite get round to reading it.

Indeed, one of The Sunday Times's traditional tricks, stretching way back to the 1960s when Denis Hamilton was editor, is its ability to make its audience think they are more informed than they really are. By simply buying the paper they are imbued with knowledge.

But fewer of them are bothering to play that particular game because The Sunday Times is suddenly suffering from the kind of drama it hasn't had to face in more than a generation: its circulation is taking a tumble.

In October it averaged 1,287,099 copies, which was 117,517 fewer than in October last year, a fall of 8.37 per cent. Given that it has also increased its bulk sales slightly over the year, it represents a substantial slide for a paper that just doesn't do decline.

The reason is not a mystery. Its owner, News International, decided to raise the cover price to [pounds sterling]2 on 10 September. As if that wasn't enough, it also savaged the paper's marketing budget. I can hardly believe that proprietor Rupert Murdoch thought this to be a clever ploy. …

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