Several years ago, the US-born media analyst Claire Enders made herself a by-word for doom-mongering by predicting that up to half of the UK’s 1,300 local and regional newspapers would close by the end of 2013.
Well, we’re almost there, and while the industry has undoubtedly shrunk in the ensuing period, it has seen nothing like the carnage that Ms Enders forecast.
Some of the papers that were daily in 2009 are now weekly, and a few that were weekly are no more.
But the fact that only one title, the Liverpool Post, has gone from daily to weekly to outright closure over the course of that four-year timespan should surely put this week’s announcement of the paper’s forthcoming demise into some sort of perspective.
It was inevitable that some media pundits would read into the announcement a portent of what could be in store for other titles in other cities.
To some extent, Trinity actually invited such speculation by making it clear in the closure announcement that part of the reason for its decision was the difficulty of sustaining two titles in the same city-region.
Given that it already does so in Birmingham, Newcastle and Cardiff, was this not a clear indication that further grim news could be on the way?
Well, my own intelligence on this for what it’s worth is that this is not the start of some general Trinity Mirror-wide move towards single-title operations in major cities, more an isolated case based purely on the particular situation in Liverpool.
While the problem with the Post was that it was operating in too similar a market to the Liverpool Echo, that is not necessarily the case in some of those other cities.
Although based in Newcastle, The Journal has always sold a significant proportion of its copies in Northumberland where it, rather than the Chronicle, is regarded as the main daily paper.
Likewise the Western Mail is not, and never has been, a ‘Cardiff paper’ in the same sense that the South Wales Echo is, with its strongholds being in Swansea and rural West Wales rather than in the Welsh capital.
Neither does this week’s announcement necessarily prove that the daily-turned-weekly model is doomed to failure as NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet has claimed, only that it is hard to make this work in a city where there continues to be a bigger daily title.
So my hunch is that the demise of the Post may prove to be a one-off, and I hope I’m right.
Nevertheless, it is hard not to feel for Post editor Mark Thomas, one of nicest men in regional journalism and, it should not be forgotten, an award-winning reporter in his younger days for his coverage of the James Bulger case.
Mark will apparently be offered a new role with the company along with all the other Post staff, but there was no disguising his pain on what he himself described as the saddest day of his career.