21 September 2014

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Five free weekly titles to be axed by Johnston Press

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.”

13 Comments

  1. Spanner

    The time for local frees is largely over.
    Built on the back of swathes of property advertising, which is now online.

    Report this comment

  2. John Stone

    A sad sad day. My first job was working on the Pudsey Times! Love the phrase ‘focus on’….
    Great management speak.
    In other words those journalists who had to do stories for the Pudsey Times and Leeds Weekly News when it was taken off Ackrills can now go back to doing what they were initially employed to do…. no wait they have to cover for their former colleague who is one of the 19 got rid of.
    Genius

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  3. outofit

    It doesn’t take a genius to see the next stage in the JP master plan for Yorkshire.
    Now the YP and YEP newsrooms are being combined – under one editor – it’s only a short step to replacing the Leeds Weekly News by making the YEP a weekly paper.
    Such humiliation. A once-great, campaigning, investigative, champion-of-the-people newspaper brought to its news, not by market forces or digital technology, but by the incompetence of the JP management.

    I just wonder which paid for newspapers in Leeds advertisers are migrating to?

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  4. JibberJabber

    * ‘brought to its knees’

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  5. freeforall

    I am sure these frees were the exception but a lot of JP frees are a waste of newsprint; no extra staff allocated to them and cobbled together with leftovers. Better off dead than living corpses.

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  6. stubags

    Newspapers generally do become “economically unviable” when editorial and advertising staff are cut back to zero.

    The West Lothian Herald & Post used to run to 48 pages, was full of locally-generated editorial and advertising, and, pound for pound, was one of the most profitable parts of the Scotsman group.

    Then JP took over. Vampires.

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  7. InTheClubStyle

    @freeforall
    Point is, if they make money they will survive. If they don’t, they won’t. People will advertise in “living corpses” if the rates and distribution networks are right, and they get results. There are many ad-led frees which are indeed cobbled together with leftovers. They survive as “buffers” to keep out the competition and mop-up the cheaper end of the ad market. They make money, so they are not a waste of newsprint. And the readers know what to expect and (hopefully) turn to a paid-for weekly or daily if they want real news.
    There are also lots of frees which have the pagination and content of a paid-for – they just happen, for historical or commercial reasons, to be free. I know free papers of this kind where people outside the distribution area are prepared to pay a cover price for the free (typically 30p)…not just a few of them, but 1,000-plus. It just depends on the market.

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  8. Sub-head

    Great shame – my first paper the PT, next up YEP as free weekly – JP have to be the worst of a very very bad lot

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  9. Sub-head

    Frees not cost-effective – London Evening Standard anyone?

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  10. Last one out - switch off the light

    Johnston Press should be renamed as John is Depressed!!!!!!!!
    Well at least the poor souls who still work there are as well as the share holders watching another set of seniors screwing things up.
    lol!

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  11. Graeme Tiffany, Bramley, Leeds

    Bad. The state talks ‘Big Society’ and presides over an economic system that kills community. Slavoj Žižek is right, a lot of bluster about the local but globalisation rules. I remember well the demise of the Pudsey Times’ letters page – I said then it was a sign of things to come. Folk will have to go online for running results: http://www.pudseypacers.com/ … unless the PT can be taken over by a mutual (sic.).

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  12. Curious

    Johnston Press is like a dripping tap cum Chinese water torture. Every day there is more bad news, heaping yet more misery to another part of its’ decimated empire. It’s been going on for so long that I’m surprised there’s anything left. Exporting UK jobs to India was a new low yesterday. I wonder what they have in store for tomorrow.
    There are many contenders for Britain’s worst employers in the regional newspaper field but JP take the crown. The ‘you have a week to decide if you want to go and work in India’ is the jewel in their crown!

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  13. Paul Warren

    Such a shame.

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