Regional publisher Johnston Press has announced it will close three free weekly titles in Scotland and a further two in Yorkshire.
The Fife Leader, the Falkirk & Grangemouth Advertiser and the West Lothian Herald & Post will be closed within the next month after becoming “economically unviable”.
Also shutting down are the Leeds Weekly News and the Pudsey Times, part of JP’s Yorkshire Post Newspapers division.
Bosses in Yorkshire say the closures will enable the Leeds-based YPN team to focus on its daily brands, the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, whose newsrooms are currently being merged with the loss of 19 jobs.
The three Scottish closures were announced by Andrew Richardson, managing director of Johnston Press’s Scotland division.
He told HTFP: “It is because of the state of the advertising market. It is pretty grim at the moment. These titles were becoming economically unviable.
“Frees are more susceptible to changes in advertising because that is their main revenue. It has been poor for five years now.”
He said no editorial or advertising jobs would be lost because of it but those who work delivering the papers to readers’ homes would be affected.
It is understood the Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra will remain the only free title published by Johnston Press in Scotland.
The latest ABC figures show the Fife Leader with an average distribution of 43,515 and the Falkirk & Grangemouth Advertiser with 34,352.
The Yorkshire closures were announced in a statement by Helen Oldham, managing director of JP’s Yorkshire business unit.
It said: “Following a review of free newspaper publishing in Leeds, Yorkshire Post Newspapers have reached a decision to close the Leeds Weekly News and Pudsey Times from 5 July. This change comes as a direct result of tough economic conditions and a natural migration of Leeds based advertisers towards paid for newspapers.
The closure of these titles will enable the Leeds based teams to focus on the strong Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post brands. No advertising or editorial roles are at risk as a result.”
The latest ABCs show the Leeds Weekly News had an average distrbution of 97,135 and the Pudsey Times 18,316.
Former LWN journalist John Baron, who now runs a hyperlocal website called Leeds Online, said the title had suffered a series of cutbacks since he began his career there in 1994.
Wrote John in a blog post: “We ran campaigns, took up people’s causes and gripes – but more importantly we were relevant to our communities, just as the Pudsey Times once was.
“We covered a lot of community news the YEP wasn’t interested in, and still isn’t. My argument is that the news we did is still relevant today. It’s just not covered anywhere any more, which is sad, and bad for democracy.
“By the time I’d left in 1999 they were already cutting back. More recently it had one reporter and articles lifted from the YEP. And now there are none.”