Daily Mail eclipses the Sun to become UK’s top-selling paper
After 42 years as the UK’s best-selling newspaper, the Sun has lost its title to the Daily Mail.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid had been the nation’s most popular newspaper since 1978, spawning such memorable splash headlines as “Freddie Starr ate my hamster”, “Gotcha!”, and “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” – the 1992 front page taking credit for the Conservatives’ unexpected general election victory.
The Daily Mail, which had been steadily closing the sales gap in recent years, overtook the Sun in May, according to the latest official figures.
The Daily Mail sold 980,000 copies a day on average last month, and the Mail on Sunday sold 878,000 a week, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures published on Friday.
Last month News UK, the parent company of the Sun, the Sun on Sunday, and the Times, stopped making its official sales figures publicly available. However, the publisher’s figures are still made privately available to the industry each month and the Guardian understands that the Sun and the Sun on Sunday reported lower sales than the Mail titles in May.
In March – the most recent publicly available figures for the Sun – the 55p tabloid sold an average of 1.13m copies a day. It also distributed a further 66,800 copies for free pick-up at airports and train stations. The Mail, which does not distribute free copies and is priced at 70p, is understood to have bigger paid-for sales than the Sun’s combined paid and free circulation.
“I am immensely proud and delighted that the Daily Mail has become Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, an historic moment in our history,” said Geordie Greig, editor of the Daily Mail.
The Sun’s March sales were down 11% year on year – more than twice the 5% decline recorded by the Daily Mail.
It is understood that as well as the paid-for sales decline, the Sun has been affected by a significant drop in free distribution as airlines were grounded and the UK went into lockdown.
When it launched in 1964, the Sun was the fourth-biggest newspaper behind the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Daily Mail. The paper went tabloid after Murdoch acquired it in 1969, eventually overtaking the Mirror as the UK’s best-selling newspaper in 1977.
A spokesperson for the Sun said: “We care most about the measurement that reflects our readers and our industry in 2020. The latest PAMCo data – the best measure of total brand audience across print and digital – shows record reach for the Sun. We engage 39.8 million people monthly, fuelled by our agenda-setting journalism and exclusives, and underlining our position as the UK’s biggest and most popular newsbrand.”