A weekly sports newspaper has been abruptly axed after 109 years of publication ahead of the relaunch of its sister daily this week.
The News, Portsmouth, is among 44 Johnston Press titles getting revamped designs this week as part of the second phase of relaunches of all the publisher’s paid-for titles.
It will include the launch of two new hyperlocal editions for Fareham and Gosport and an increase in the cover price for the Saturday edition.
However the move has coincided with the scrapping of Saturday sports paper the Sports Mail, with managers saying the title had become loss-making.
In a separate development, the publisher has also announced the closure of a free paper in Hastings, the Resident, saying various attempts to “prop it up” had failed.
No jobs have been lost as a result of either closure, although it is understood that plans to recruit a trainee sports reporter at The News have been put on hold.
The changes were announced to staff by Karl Dimmock, managing director of JP’s Southern publishing division, in an internal memo which has been seen by HoldtheFrontPage.
A report on the demise of the Sports Mail, which was first published in 1903, was also carried in Friday’s edition of The News.
Wrote Karl: “It is with regret that after 109 years we are to cease publishing the Sports Mail. The last edition will be on 6 October, although we are proposing subsequently to produce a souvenir edition looking back at all the highs over the publication’s history.
“Unfortunately as we, and many other media providers, have improved their routes to readers – with the launch of websites, Apps, video etc – the sale of the paper had been dwindling and it had reached a point where it was making a loss, one of the reasons we have decided to close the title mid season.
“However the second, and more important, reason for the timing of this decision is much more positive. Next week we relaunch the News, and we launch The News App.
“Those who turn to the Sports Mail for that day’s action will have unrivalled up-to-the-minute match-day coverage through the iPad App, website and our recently launched The News football app with live commentary, post-match reports and comment.”
The changes will also see increased pagination for the Monday edition of The News to provide additional sports content early in the week.
And grass-roots sport will now be catered for in an eight-page ‘parks’ pull-out in The News each Wednesday with additional pages on Thursday and Friday.
In the memo, Karl also outlined plans for a “bigger, stictched and trimmed” Weekend supplement on Saturdays, with the cover price increasing from 13 October.
He said: “Dual pricing is not alien to readers, the Echo and the Argus do it locally, and the majority of the nationals do it too, and history shows that Saturday sale is a lot more resilient to price increases, as long as we give something back.”
On the closure of the Resident, Karl said it would allow more resources to be focused on paid-for stablemate the Hastings Observer.
He said: “We have tried a number of initiatives to prop up this free title, but unfortunately the return does not justify the effort that goes into it, especially when the paid for Observer series is so strong.”
- The News’ chief sports writer Neil Allen paid an affectionate tribute to Sports Mail in this morning’s edition of the main paper.
“There are three things certain in life – death, taxes… and the end of Saturday sports papers. I have been here previously, when what was once the largest-selling sports paper in Britain – Birmingham’s Sports Argus – went to the great publisher in the sky,” he wrote.