A former regional editor turned media commentator has predicted that most UK regional dailies will go weekly within the next ten years.
Steve Dyson says that by 2023 there will be “few, if any” daily regional and local newspapers left in the country.
His comments appear in the latest edition of the business magazine In Publishing.
Steve, who also reviews local and regional newspapers for HTFP in his fortnightly blog, says more than 30 regional dailies – those selling under 20,000 – will go weekly in the next five years.
Any dailies that remain will be concentrated in urban areas such as the Black Country, Merseyside, Tyneside and North-East Scotland.
Wrote Steve: “It’s not a hard scenario to predict: 13 regional newspapers have converted from daily to weekly publication in the last six years, most changing in the last two years.
“Of the 78 dailies currently remaining, more than 30 sell less than 20,000 a day and will go weekly – or close – in the next five years; a similar number – perhaps more – will convert by 2023.
“The industry will mainly consist of two types of weekly publisher: regional ‘giants’ with shared online platforms; and local start-ups and buy-outs with hyperlocal blogging websites.
“The likes of Newsquest, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror and Local World will have changed out of all recognition, and will halve in number. The two that remain, along with the larger family firms, will publish fat, cat-killing weeklies covering cosmopolitan cities, large towns and urban counties where there are still enough readers and advertisers wanting regular and unique local insight in print.”
Steve predicts that most newspaper content will be analysis, timeless investigations and detailed comment, resulting in high quality, premium-priced papers.
Meanwhile breaking news, sport and videos will appear online, with the remaining’ big two’ operating a shared national platform along the lines of ‘upyourstreet.com’ with local pages automatically appearing based on a postcode app.
Areas not served by the ‘regional giants’ will see smaller local start-ups, some operated by former journalists who will be happy to break even rather than make large profits.
Most of the smaller print products that remain will be freesheets and will come out weekly, monthly or quarterly, predicts Steve.
In a separate piece, the magazine also sought the views of a panel of current daily and weekly editors about the future of the industry.
All agreed that although they would be fewer in number, there would still be printed newspapers around by 2030.
“In other areas, it may be that the ‘newspaper’ brand is retained as a very strong digital offering which, again, can be seen as positive – as long as local journalists are on the ground getting the stories people wish to read. Huge differences, influenced by changes in society, readership and the public.”
Belfast Telegraph edtior Mike Gilson added: “Some do not deserve to be around now but others will survive. There are some cracking weeklies in the right rural markets which, if they keep to the old stuff – planning, courts, people and places – will hang around.
“We have to get used to doing stuff differently: in-depth, beautiful narratives, exclusives, investigations. They will be higher priced and less frequent but the quid pro quo will be increased quality… think lots of mini Economists, only with panache and vitality.”