When it was reported recently that the Daily Mail had become the world's second most popular newspaper website, it got me thinking about what the daily 'audience' of our UK newspapers now looks like. The below graphic shows the topline, combining actual ABC newspaper circulation figures, ABCe online circulation figures and social media fans and followers of named publication accounts (excluding individual journalist's personal followings). It of course doesn't allow for some very obvious crossovers between the three (or the degree to which some social media followers may be lapsed or rarely online), but still provides an interesting snapshot of how newspapers have evolved their audiences in recent times:
One thing really stands out from this snapshot with regards the evolution taking place - and it is typified by the major differences between the top two on the chart. The Daily Mail - the biggest player in online and print - has a relatively small social following. And clearly it doesn't appear to be suffering as a result. (As discussed earlier this week the Daily Mail has taken to Twitter very ineffectively).
The Mail's online focus on celebrity gossip and candid shots of scantily clad stars is clearly working well in generating search engine traffic from outside its traditional readership (how many right wing pensioners in middle England know or care who Kim Kardashian is?).
The Guardian meanwhile has almost as many social media fans and followers as it has daily visitors to its website (give or take a few hundred thousand) - so compared to the Daily Mail's runaway success it's clearly growing a smaller but arguably more loyal, more engaged and more focussed community of online readers and followers (even if we assume a high number of its social media followers are lapsed or rarely active) within the boundaries of well established 'brand values'. That's not say all sections of the traditional paper have grown equally in the online world - the Guardian's social following is skewed considerably by the 1.6 million followers of @GuardianTech - but those followers know the content promoted there is clearly an extension of the Guardian's brand.
A simple comparison of content (there are very few 'upskirt' shots of Lady Gaga on the Guardian's website) and overall numbers tells us the Guardian draws in considerably fewer readers via search than the Mail, but assuming it has a far higher percentage of readers navigating to its website via branded Guardian Twitter feeds than any rival, there is a case for saying its brand has more effectively weathered the evolution taking place. It has grown and remained intact. The Mail has changed the brand values its traditional readers would associate with the paper in order to court the pure numbers the media's evolution can deliver. Both of course are proving to be viable models.
Less sustainable will be those brands which have currently done little to mitigate falling print circulation with any notable great strides taken online.
(Updated 9/5/2011: The graph has now been updated after a recount of followers of the Times' Twitter accounts.)