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40m adults a week read local newspapers: Latest ABCs

Local newspaper readership has grown to 40m adults every week, according to new figures issued by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The latest figures for July-December 2003 show the fastest-growing UK regional paid-for weekly is the Mansfield CHAD, adding 28.4 per cent, and the largest paid-for weekly is the Kent Messenger, with an ABC figure of 58,226.

The fastest-growing regional evening paper is the Express and Echo, Exeter, recording +3.31 per cent. The largest regional evening paper is the London Evening Standard at 398,966.

The overall figures mean that readership of paid-for weekly newspapers alone has grown by 15 per cent during the past 10 years.

More than half of all weekly titles have increased circulation and the picture has marginally improved for regional mornings, evenings and Sundays, with more titles showing growth than in the last reporting period. However, the large metropolitan dailies, in common with national newspapers, are continuing to struggle to increase headline sales.

Newspaper Society president John Robertson: “People trust regional and local newspapers more than any other media and are increasingly seeking out relevant, detailed local news and information which only the regional press can provide. The industry’s commitment to quality editorial is reflected in its growing readership.”

The regional press is leading the print industry by focusing on actively purchased sales.

In the latest period, publishers almost eliminated bulk sales and discounted copies from their figures. And the percentage of regional press actively purchased sales has grown from 96 per cent to 99 per cent in the past four years.

Three-quarters of regional newspapers have taken out bulk sales completely, posting 100 per cent actively purchased figures, up from 65.3 per cent of the industry a year ago. A number of evening papers have achieved positive growth in their actively purchased sale, including the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton and the Bath Chronicle.

ABC chief executive Chris Boyd said: “Regional paid newspapers have once again shown their commitment to move their sector to virtually all actively purchased sales.”

Kevin Beatty, managing director of Northcliffe Newspapers and chairman of the Newspaper Society’s marketing committee, said: “Local and regional newspapers are in excellent health: readership is on the increase and major new advertisers are coming into the medium because of its closeness to communities and its proven effectiveness.

“All mainstream media are battling to maintain audience share; the fact that once again nearly half of all local and regional titles have grown circulation reflects the strong and enduring affinity this industry retains with its customers.”

Stephen Parker, managing director for regional newspapers at Trinity Mirror, said: “Overall it is good to see the regional press moving in the right direction but a significant improvement in the performance of daily titles remains a challenge. As an industry, we continue to focus on actively purchased sale which is of most importance to our customers.”

Johnston Press director of operations Danny Cammiade said: “The sustained success of our weekly titles is especially pleasing with overall sales ahead for the seventh successive full year, and a number of our leading publications showing strong growth.

“Our policy of gradually reducing bulk sales continues to affect our daily newspapers, but we are confident that progress will be made in the longer term through additional platforms, increased pagination and improved content. Newspaper sales remain our highest priority.”

The figures also show:

  • Fastest-growing regional paid-for morning: Paisley Daily Express (+1.4%);
  • Largest regional paid-for morning: Daily Record, Scotland (ABC 503,489).
  • Fastest-growing regional paid-for Sunday: The Sentinel Sunday (+5.6%);
  • Largest regional paid-for Sunday: Sunday Mail, Scotland (ABC 618,312).
  • Largest free regional morning: Metro London (ABC Bulk 449,616);
  • Largest free weekly: Manchester Metro News (VFD 301,914).

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    ©NEP 2004