MORE than 50 regional daily newspapers lost sales in the second half of 1999, new figures show.
But the message from the Newspaper Society was upbeat after data for 1,224 daily and weekly titles was published on the same day for only the second time.
It pointed out that 53% of all regional titles increased sales year on year, with weeklies again leading the way.
The society said that the 1.8% decrease in the aggregate sale across all ABC-audited regional titles “should be set against the explosion of media choice and inevitable audience fragmentation”.
Thirty per cent of the 71 audited regional evening titles increased sales during the second half of 1999 compared with the corresponding period of 1998. However, evening sales fell 2.4% overall.
Strongest performances among the evenings included the Wigan Evening Post (up 2.3% to 11,773), the Guernsey Evening Press and Star (up 1.8% to 16,192), the North West Evening Mail (+1.6% to 20,399), Swindon’s Evening Advertiser (+1.5% to 26,727) and the Dorset Evening Echo (+1.5% to 20,752).
Norman Macdonald, who has edited the Paisley Daily Express for almost five years, attributes its success to a simple formula: getting the product right, promoting it properly and making sure it’s available when people want to buy it.
“I aim to make the paper indispensible. If people want to know what is happening on their doorstep, or at end the end of their street, the only way they can find out is through the Paisley Daily Express,” he said.
“We concentrate on good, hard news – lots of it – exclusives, and we keep it up-to-date and present it in a national tabloid style,” he added.
Paisley apart, Scottish titles suffered some of the biggest losses, with the Edinburgh Evening News down 6.7% to 75,321 and the Glasgow Evening Times down 6.6% to 108,838. All the major English titles also slipped. The Wolverhampton Express and Star fell 1.7% to 183,759, the Manchester Evening News 0.2% to 173,179, the Liverpool Echo 1.3% to 155,920, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle 2% to 107,511 and the Leicester Mercury – which has just relaunched – 5.4% to 102,640.
In Belfast, the Evening Telegraph fell 5.9% to 117,207 and in Wales, the South Wales Echo dropped 4.9% to 70,973. The Republic of Ireland’s three daily morning and two evening titles all put on sales.
For the sixth consecutive ABC period, weekly newspapers showed growth. Some 59% of weeklies increased circulation and the sector as a whole, with 396 eligible ABC titles, increased sales by 0.1%.
The ABC/VFD figures cover 1,224 UK newspapers with a combined weekly sale of 72 million.
Chris Stanley, the Newspaper Society’s marketing director, said: “The regional press has delivered another solid sales performance in a highly competitive, burgeoning and fragmented market.
“There is so much more media choice for people these days, yet still only 24 hours in the day. Shrinking audience levels are a fact of life for most media. The battle is to maintain as stable a sale as possible while expanding the news service across other channels to build a larger aggregate audience.”
He added: “While the vast majority of regional press audiences are reached by the printed newspaper, an increasing number are accessing regional news and information via a portfolio of electronic and other services. At least 85 per cent of regional newspapers are now online and collectively attract 15 million page impressions each week.”
The biggest free newspaper in the country is still the Manchester Metro News with a distribution of 300,088 copies, an average pagination of 90 and an average 45% editorial content. The Glaswegian is second biggest and Nottingham & Long Eaton Topper third.
The Metros phenomenon – the launch of regional daily frees in London, Manchester, West Midlands, Newcastle and Scotland – demonstrates the health of the sector and their popularity is lending new credibility to the concept of free media, the Newspaper Society said.
It added that regional press figures should be viewed against a 6.6% fall in ITV viewing, a 2.1% drop in national newspaper sales and a decrease in the sales of 60% of top-selling magazines, while the number of adults using the internet had grown by 50% in the past year to 15.7 million.
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