Changing consumption patterns of Welsh news

Michael Haggett reports on a shift from print to web readership of our newspapers

The latest circulation figures for the Welsh newspapers have recently been published and shown in Table 1 below. The figures are for the first half of 2013, compared with the same period last year. More detail is available from ABC by entering the name of the paper in the Certificate Finder search box.

Table 1: Welsh newspaper daily circulation – for first half of 2013



% paid for

% fall in circulation compared with first half of 2012


Wrexham Leader





Western Mail




North Wales Daily Post





South Wales Argus





S0uth Wales Echo




South Wales Evening Post





Wales on Sunday




Source: Hold the Front Page, 28 August 2013

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about any of these figures. They simply show a continuation of the same general decline in printed newspaper circulation that has been apparent for some years. Only one newspaper in the whole of the UK has managed to buck the trend.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The real question is whether people are getting the same news from the web editions of these newspapers instead and, thankfully, that information is also available. Table 2 gives the Welsh figures:

Table 2: daily unique browsers for web editions of Welsh newspapers for first half of 2013


Daily unique browsers

% increase compared with first half of 2012







Source: Hold the Front Page, 28 August 2013

Again, the figures are for the first half of 2013, compared with the same period last year. Across the UK, all but four of the newspaper websites showed an increase. These figures aren’t directly comparable with the print figures – for example the WalesOnline figure will include combined content from the Western Mail, the South Wales Echo and Wales on Sunday. However, all in all, the increase in online readership more than compensates for the loss of print readership, which is encouraging and healthy from the point of view of informing the public about news and current affairs. Table 3 shows the relative gain three newspaper groups made when comparing their online gains with their print losses

Table 3: Gains and loses of newspaper print and online editions, for first half of 2013


Print loss

Online gain



South Wales Evening Post





Western Mail/South Wales Echo/Wales on Sunday





North Wales Daily Post




But there are still questions to be asked. For example I think that people who buy a printed paper are likely to read all or most of its content. On the other hand online readership will tend to be more focused on fewer pages. And of course there is also the question of how to make money from online editions … especially when people (like me) block the advertisements.

Michael Haggett blogs regularly on Welsh matters at Syniadau, where this post first appeared.

7 thoughts on “Changing consumption patterns of Welsh news

  1. One pattern of Welsh news consumption that isn’t changing is that the vast majority of people continue to consume it in English… Attempts by the MSM to introduce Welsh language content have invariably failed dismally.

    The other problem with web-based news is, as MH points out, how to make money from it? More and more people are becoming web-savvy enough to block the embedded scumware that makes money for website operators, and which also records their site-use patterns. Some news sites I visit have in excess of 10 such embedded scripts per page, and all the tracking cookies that go with them, but I block the lot – including the Google Adsense on MH’s blog. Do unto others…

    The next step seems to be the dreaded paywall on web news. Several MSM sites have already gone down this route but they are being very coy about how many visitors they have lost and about whether they are making more, or less, from their news sites than they were before the paywall. The general consensus seems to be that paywalling does not work and it will not work unless all the media sources operate paywalled content. At the moment readers seem to be moving to the free to view sites.

    One of the virtues of web-based news is the ease with which readers can interact. But the Wales based TM news sites seem to have alienated readers by censoring large swathes of opinion which does not happen to agree with ‘editorial policy’! Many articles which are likely to attract hostility are put up without a comment facility. Where comments are allowed they are heavily censored and off-message contributors are cut and/or banned – rather like the ‘IWA 3’! This is also likely to be counter-productive in the long-term because news junkies will desert the MSM in droves in favour of specialised content on blogs, which have much lower overheads and frequently much higher standards of journalism.

    In short, the future for the 4th estate in Wales looks to be rather bleak… They may do better if their content looks more like news and less like propaganda but I suspect the damage has already been done…

  2. ”One pattern of Welsh news consumption that isn’t changing is that the vast majority of people continue to consume it in English…”
    Rather flippant comment John. In fact, Welsh language news can’t really be compared numbers wise with English as the languages are different in size. Golwg360 has between 27,000-30,000 unique users every year, with BBC Newyddion site having around the same with a 50% increase according to a media statement made by the BBC in July and as a result the BBC will be launching a new on-line news service for Welsh soon to build on this with the aim of increasing it to 50,000 unique users. Collectively some commentators have estimated that the readership of the papurau bro is between 150,00-180,000 as well. Golwg has a circulation of around 12,000. The latest viewing figures for Newyddion 9 show that between 22,000-23,000 people watch it daily.

    Small compared to English, but not bad compared to the size of the Welsh speaking population. In fact Welsh language media in whatever format seems to be more popular than the daily post or the south wales evening post both of which have a larger readership base.

  3. Another salient point as well is the rise in the circulation of the Welsh language monthly Barn, a current affairs and news magazine
    Two rises in Welsh consumption then, and neither are the numbers of readership too depressing when compared with their possible readership as they should be and not with English.

  4. I agree that websites should not block contributors. Block specific comments on the grounds of irrelevance, indecency or illegality but do not shut out contributors simply because they have erred in the past.

    It is less than astonishing that most news is read in English since that is the first language of at least 80 per cent of the population of Wales. I suppose the leading source of Welsh language news is Golwg360 but I find that pretty patchy.

  5. The English Press (newspapers) have been in decline since WW2. Firstly because of Radio and Television then the Internet.

    I see a lot of people reading the Metro, whoes figures are not included, so people must want to read a physical newspaper. The problem is that the newspapers have never understood how to deal with their competitors. They have either carried on regardless or gone down-market to a section of the English market that prefer to look at pictures (or can only look at pictures considering their difficulty in reading English).

    The “I” and the Metro are both smaller papers in all dimensions.The Metro is also very available (because it’s free) which makes it easier for commuters to pick up a copy in these days of frequently staffless railway stations.

    Maybe betweeen them the “I” and Metro are pointing a way forward for newspapers. The others still seem to be stuck in a rut, although that’s taking them to oblivion. Few people are going to pay for online newspapers. You don’t need batteries for a paper newspaper and the Internet can be easier to use. Am I the only one for whom touch screen has a mind of its own?

  6. A REPORT on page 11 of the Western Mail (7/11/2013) headlined “Tory uproar over £3m Bay offices upgrade” is in the same edition as another missive on page 27 from Assembly presiding officer Rosemary Butler calling for induction sessions for trainee journalists “to ensure a better understanding of the work of the institution”.
    This unfortunate coincidence highlights admirably my previously made point that journalists must be independent of government and completely unbiased so they can break stories like the one on page 11, pointing out that the Welsh government spent more than £55,000 buying TV sets as part of a refurbishment programme at its Cardiff Bay offices.
    Whether or not debates at the Assembly are “boring” (and it would be highly unusual if Rosemary Butler were to declare that she did find them boring) is not the point. The specious and self-serving point she repeats about a “democratic deficit” (put in capital letters in the final paragraph of her piece for some reason) is being used by the Labour administration to drum up support for reform of journalistic training which appears to now aim to move the newsroom into the Senedd itself. We only have to look at Newport City Council’s “newspaper” Newport Matters and the other council free-sheets to fully appreciate the dangers of that.
    Journalists must be feisty, feral beasts not docile, compliant stooges and they need to be emotionally and physically independent from government – now more than ever after Leveson and the shambolic phone hacking debacle, giving government a great gift to curb free speech and bring in censorship.
    I wonder what these “emerging digital platforms” and “digital and hyperlocal media, and partner organisations” actually are and I also wonder what “content” would be provided to them. Stories on all-female shortlists, perhaps?
    The Labour administration needs to properly manage the economy to help solve the “financial pressures faced by our indigenous Welsh national and regional press” so they can properly fund journalism training. It is clear, however, from news in UK Press Gazette about Newsquest’s savage editorial cuts (Yorkshire-based journalists being moved to a central hub in Newport) and David Montgomery’s nightmare vision for the future of journalism (“harvesting” of online news with no shifts or proper contracts of employment) that bosses have contemptuously turned the lights out to save money and left their journalistic staff in the dark.
    I would question the veracity of the figures quoted in Michael Haggett’s piece about online gains because I do not know how you can reliably and systematically measure meaning in browsing. Readership seems to me to be more meaningful because it suggests that people did read or made some effort to read by buying a product but browsing seems a totally different thing with much more questionable motivation on the part of the “browser”.
    Wikipedia are now asking users to make online donations and that may be a signpost for the future of journalism. The Private Eye funding model seems the most appealing but governments will have to ensure that free speech is defended in the courts and censorship is avoided at all costs.

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