The day after Margaret Thatcher's death was announced Guardian sales went up by 25 per cent, readers' editor Chris Elliott reveals today.
Elliott in his Open door column says there were scores of letters of complaint from readers claiming the paper had too much coverage on Thatcher.
He writes: "Internally, the issue of too much – rather than too favourable – was raised at the Guardian's editorial morning conference by Polly Toynbee, who made a broader point: 'I do think the Guardian has a tendency to go big on these things in print because we can, we have the writers and the editors to do it, but I don't think readers necessarily want all that'."
But Elliott adds: "One measure of what people want is the sales figures for the paper. Lady Thatcher's death was, in sales terms, a quality newspaper story. Newspapers don't release the details of their internal research on sales figures but I can say that the Guardian received a 25% uplift in newspaper sales the day after her death was announced, the largest percentage rise of any newspaper, although not in absolute sales. Away from the quality market, the effect appears much less marked, which I find surprising."
Online on the day Lady Thatcher died, 8 April 2013, content tagged as "Margaret Thatcher" on the Guardian site received 2,095,395 page views and 1,277,032 unique browsers. In total of 18,387,183 page views that day and 5,400,599 unique browsers.
Elliott concludes: "It could be argued that if readers were dismayed by the coverage they would peel away in the run-up to the funeral but there were increased print sales and high traffic on the site during that period. Online statistics for the whole week beginning 7 April are: 4,696,441 unique browsers saw Thatcher content and the top story was a Russell Brand feature which got 1,227,584 unique browsers over the week.
"There is clearly a conflict between the scores of readers writing to say things such as, 'Yes we want the paper back. We have reached Thatcheration level!', and the extra sales and online traffic."
- Some Guardian readers were revolted by the paper's coverage of the royal wedding in May 2011 but it pushed up sales by more than 100,000 copies, Chris Elliott noted in his Open Door column at the time.