Newspapers will no longer have their sales figures automatically published, the industry’s auditor has said.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), which records and audits sales, usually publishes figures every month.
But ABC said publishers were growing concerned about a “negative narrative of decline” in newspaper sales.
Three major titles were absent from Thursday’s figures, which showed a significant drop in sales in April amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Telegraph, The Sun and The Times declined to publish, but other national titles revealed their figures as normal, including The Daily Express, The Daily Mirror, The Guardian, The Daily Star and The i Paper.
The Daily Mail had the highest sales of the papers which published, with a circulation of 945,000 – down from 1.13 million in March.
No national newspaper sold more than 1 million copies per day in the UK, as readers shopped less frequently under lockdown.
Newspapers were already suffering falling print sales prior to coronavirus, and stories about the gradual decline of newspapers have been common in recent years.
After the announcement that some papers would not publish their figures, The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson said: “This is a genius move. Can’t write about the decline in print newspaper sales if there’s no longer evidence that print newspaper sales are actually declining!
“Entirely coincidentally, pre-Covid this was due to be the month the Sun lost its title as UK’s biggest selling newspaper after 40+ years to Daily Mail. Now we’ve… no idea,” he added.
All publishers will still have their circulation figures audited by ABC. As a result, newspapers will be able to tell advertisers what their sales are, regardless of whether or not they are made public.
Phil Smith, Director General of ISBA, which represents UK advertisers, said he “fully supported” the changes.
“These reporting updates will reduce the tendency for circulation to be seen as the only measure of Newsbrands’ health in our multi-platform age,” he said.
Newspapers have dramatically expanded their online operations in recent years in an effort to increase income from internet advertising.