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Welcome to Lexington’s weekly round-up of media news and the latest moves in journalism. To subscribe please email communications@lexcomm.co.uk. 

MEDIA NEWS

ABC

National newspaper circulation figures for January show a decline across the board. The Sun remains the UK’s most read paid-for newspaper with 1.4 million copies sold in January, down nine per cent on the previous year. The Daily Mail comes in second with a print circulation of 1.2 million in January, down 12 per cent on last January. The Mail on Sunday suffered an 11 per cent year-on-year drop, with a circulation of 1 million. Although, it is worth noting that for the first time DMG Media, publisher of the Mail titles, has stopped including bulk sales in its figures – amounting to just over 50,000 copies on average. Of the paid for papers, The Sunday Times enjoyed the smallest drop in circulation at just four per cent, meaning 712,000 copies were sold throughout January.

Editor of The Spectator Fraser Nelson was so delighted with his magazine’s figures that he published an article announcing that sales have reached another all-time high. 76,201 copies were sold in the second half of 2018, up seven per cent on the first half of the year. He noted that subscriptions are driving growth as The Spectator is seeing ‘a substantial increase of people who are willing to pay for good writing. But on one condition: it needs to be significantly and consistently better than what you can find for free’.

Cairncross

Dame Frances Cairncross published her hotly anticipated, 157-page review into the future of journalism last week. Of particular interest she noted that a reduction in public-interest reporting seems to reduce community engagement with local democracy (such as voter turnout) and that UK consumers are far less accustomed to buying newspaper subscriptions than our American counterparts. Several recommendations generated significant media coverage such as the idea that the Government, with involvement with Ofcom, should develop a media literacy strategy and that Ofcom should assess BBC News Online’s market impact. The call to establish an Institute for Public Interest News was questioned as some believe the BBC already fulfils this remit.

Separately, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee this morning published its own report into fake news and disinformation. It calls for an ethics code for tech companies to be managed by an independent regulator with the powers to launch legal action if necessary and an overhaul of electoral laws as they are ‘hopelessly out of date for the internet age’.

Time out

There was incredulity on Thursday when The Times website went down leaving readers unable to access the biggest story of day: that of London schoolgirl Shamima Begun who fled to Syria aged just 15. The Times tweeted to say it was having online problems but only after its website and app were criticised for being outdated.

It hasn’t been a good week for The Times – press reform campaign group Hacked Off claims that 6,000 people have signed its petition in protest at proposals to allow the sharing of resources between The Times and The Sunday Times. In January, publisher News UK submitted an application to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) requesting to alter previously agreed conditions that mandate resources, including editorial teams, for the two titles be kept separate. News UK has asked for ‘a greater sharing of resources and services, including journalists’ to ‘mitigate the financial challenges that the two titles will face in the future’. But Hacked Off is concerned about the risk of job cuts and plurality in the newspaper market. DCMS has launched a consultation before deciding to grant News UK’s request. The campaign group has submitted a formal response to the Government’s consultation on the issue.

So long, farewell

Andrew Neil has decided he will step down from hosting this politics programme, This Week, after 16 years. Consequently, the BBC has said it will cancel the show as, according to director of news Fran Unsworth, ‘We couldn’t imagine This Week without the inimitable Andrew Neil’. Neil’s only remaining regular BBC presenting slot will be an episode of Politics Live once a week, on Thursdays.

It doesn’t ad up

The UK’s biggest companies spent significantly less on advertising in 2018, according to research by Nielsen. The figures suggest a change in strategy from some of the most prominent brands. Procter and Gamble, traditionally the UK’s biggest advertiser, spent £186 million in 2018, down £10 million on the previous year. Sky’s advertising spend fell 30 per cent to £124 million and Unilever dropped from third to seventh place after spending £82.8 million, 29 per cent less than previously.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK

MEDIA MOVES

Hannah Kuchler will now cover U.S. biotech, health care and pharmaceuticals at the Financial Times.

Martin Hilditch has been appointed editor of Inside Housing.

Victoria Hattersley is now a senior writer at Packaging Europe.

Johnathan Ames is now legal editor at The Times.

Oliver Smith has been appointed editor at AltFi, a publication covering fintech.

Daisy Wyatt is now digital editor of The i paper.

Sophie Curtis has returned to her position as technology and science editor at the Mirror Online.

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