Print media has been swimming against the tide for years, but in 2016 the current is more turbulent than it has been for some time.

The closure of The Independent earlier this year hailed a significant change in the newspaper market as it became the first newsbrand to transform to an online-only offering. Another considerable blow came when Trinity Mirror’s New Day was axed just two months after launch. More recently, the Telegraph Media Group and The Guardian have both announced plans to make a large number of redundancies across their editorial departments.

While it seems pretty bleak for the print market, the last few ABC circulation reports for national newspapers have delivered surprisingly positive results – namely an upturn in circulation figures.

Following the closure of The Independent, The i reported a 7% rise circulation in April with almost 20,000 more copies leaving the shelves each day. Interestingly, The Times and Daily Telegraph have also enjoyed unusual year-on-year increases of 10.9% and 2.6% respectively. It is unlikely that these titles are seeing circulation increases solely due to the closure of one long-standing newspaper. A stronger line of reasoning is that the uncertainty surrounding current socio-political events is driving readers to seek answers and opinion from their favourite print titles.

Research carried out by Reuters has confirmed that national newspapers have been acting as Brexit propagandists by rallying up troops for the impending referendum, with most in favour of Britain leaving the European Union. Newspapers have historically been a point of reference in times of indecisiveness, providing a ‘trusted’ and research-led view for its readers, but also a voice. This ‘voice’ may well be the singular most important mechanism keeping the print market’s wheels in motion.

Similarly convincing research published by The Week recently found that readers’ perception of it as a ‘trusted voice’ was the strongest reason for its 34 consecutive circulation increases. Readers want that ‘intelligent friend’ and respected voice to turn to in times of uncertainty, which explains these unexpected circulation increases.
The last few years have been a bumpy ride for newsbrands. In this time of uncertainty, publications are likely to take steps to strengthen their reader’s perception of them as a ‘trusted voice’ to build on the momentum seen over the last few months.