Two cheers for Gutenberg

Simon Jenkins thinks that some types of newspaper have a healthy future.

British popular newspaper sales have continued to fall, from 13m overall in 1965 to less than 9m today. But they are a separate publishing market. Upmarket newspapers show a reverse trend. Their daily circulation has defied every pundit, rising by a third since 1965 from 2m to close to 3m. The figure for the serious Sunday titles is the same today as it was then, 2.7m. Add the Economist, which calls itself a weekly newspaper, and the figure would be 1m higher.

This growth in serious newspaper sales is unique. Britain has a wider choice of national titles at this end of the market than ever – and than any western country. America’s five leading papers have lost more than 7% of their gross circulation in the past decade alone.

There is one reason for this. Elsewhere in Europe and America publishers are trapped by archaic unions in a quasi-monopolistic market stripped of any zest to compete. Try to start a new newspaper in an American city and you will be met by a wall of monopolistic behaviour, from unions, advertisers and usually an existing dominant title. America has ignored British experience, but people will go on buying newspapers provided they keep updating their content and presentation.