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Grim year in prospect say media pundits

Media pundits are forecasting a grim New Year for the regional press as the recession continues to bite.

Writing in MediaGuardian, former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade predicts that “at least one” major regional publisher will go under and that many local titles will be closed or merged.

“If you thought 2008 was bad for the newspaper industry, this year will undoubtedly be worse. At least one major regional owner will go under. Even if there is no further consolidation, there will be “accommodations” between rival publishers,” he says.

“More, many more, local titles will be closed or merged. More freesheets will vanish. Needless to say, more journalists will lose their jobs,”

Greenslade argues that Johnston Press, under its new chief executive John Fry, faces the toughest challenge of the major regional publishers.

He also suggests that Newsquest, which has announced a series of job losses at its regional centres over recent weeks, will be forced into more cost-cutting by its US owner Gannett.

Also writing in MediaGuardian, digital guru Clay Shirky says: “Even if we have the shallowest recession and advertising comes back as it inevitably does, more of it will go to the web. I think that’s it for newspapers.

“The great misfortune of newspapers in this era is that they were such a good idea for such a long time that people felt the newspaper business model was part of a deep truth about the world, rather than just the way things happened to be.”

Patrick Smith, writing on the digital media site PaidContent, says 2009 will mark the beginning of a “long-term shrinkage” of the newspaper industry.

“2009 is more likely to bring more layoffs, further consolidation and the death of certain long-running titles than it is a cyclical upturn in fortunes, as publishers grapple with the truth that their businesses have changed fundamentally and forever,” he says.

“In 2008, every newspaper group either cut regional budgets, closed offices, shut titles or cut staff – in some cases, all of the above. In one way, this is nothing new – cutbacks are part of life for most newspapers and magazines nowadays.

“But there’s a strong case for saying 2009 will mark a shift from seasonal, sensible belt-tightening to the long-term shrinking of the newspaper industry in Britain.”

  • What do you think 2009 holds for the industry? Is there light at the end of the tunnel, or will things get worse before they get better? Add your comments below or email them to


    Pedrobob (06/01/2009 07:53:33)
    I think Greenslade (as usual if you read him regularly on mediaguardian) is just a doom-monger. Yes, things a bad, and yes, they’ll probably get worse. But I don’t beleive the end is nigh for papers. We’ll adapt and survive. All these comment pieces (from people who don’t actually work in the industry) serve to do is perpetuate the myth it’s all over for papers and ,if anything, make the situation worse. It’s very annoying.

    Marcus Tinworth (06/01/2009 09:00:42)
    I think greenslade is right, Newspapers owned by big multinational companies are in trouble as they are so greedy they do not understand the local reason for buying a local paper or reading local news.
    The staff of all these papers know the answer its small, lean and getting back to the older ideals of local newspaper companies but in a smaller way less staff but a more local product, should this be in the form of a newspaper or web site or both, this is a tricky question. Wouldnt it be great to see small local newspaper companies part owned by their staff creating their own web and newspaper locally which would be something they beleive in and feel part of rather than a member of staff for a big company who will probably make them redundant the next time their profit margins start to slip again. Newspapers are just to convenient a product to write off just yet!!

    Chris Gaynor (06/01/2009 09:07:19)
    With so many youngsters and middle twenty-year-olds wanting to be journalists, they would be well advised to learn more internet based journalism such as HTML DREAMWEAVWER, PODCASTING and others rather than solely focusing on wanting to be a newspaper or magazine journalist. I have always believed that the internet would take over, or, atleast, dominate as that is the world we are living in. Newspapers should have seen this coming. Except, too many of them are too rapped up in their own arrogance and think they are better than everyone else just because they write for a mainstream newspaper. They are too rapped up in themselves to keep ahead of the game. They soon jumped on the citizen journalism bandwagon – because they knew if they didnt they would not get a slice of the pie.
    Blogging and community news (citizen journalism) is the future… and

    Dave (06/01/2009 10:10:47)
    Chris Gaynor – “too rapped up” … is that scratched in with a bit of hip-hop?
    Glad the training paid off!

    Dreading the future (06/01/2009 10:46:38)
    The trouble with “blogging and community news (citizen journalism)” as described by Chris Gaynor is that the vast majority of it is inaccurate, based on rumour or totally lacking in objectivity. Whether in print or on line, trained journalists must continue to strive for accurate and objective reporting of local news. I’ve no doubt that websites are becoming and will continue to become more important, but I also believe that it is a mistake to write off the printed product. A great many people, even those who are IT savvy, do not see the internet as a way of viewing news in full – fine for headlines and instant news, but no good for further information. Many, many people still want to read newspapers, full stop. It may be that the future will see the e-edition of local papers being read on hand held readers on the way to work. So be it. That form of newspaper may actually prove to be the long-term salvation of the local press.

    George Kelly (06/01/2009 11:11:43)
    So many issues in this story. I think Roy has it right! We are going to see a big withdrawal by someone quite soon but I still believe that the local press will survive. As for our frined the ‘rapper’ – I for one do not want to read anything so badly written and that tends to be what is served up on many of these citizen journalist blogs!
    Can I plug the old bandwagon of Newspapers in Education! We needed to educate readers to appreciate, understand and, most importantly, enjoy our well-written products, whether on paper or electronic. We haven’t done that and are now faced with a non-reading society! Apologies for any typos – caused solely by an illiterate keyboard!!!

    Dan Depan (06/01/2009 12:23:33)
    Ah but Mr Gayner the trouble is that our owners want citizen journalism and blogging to take over from properly run and staffed local newspapers. Know why? Well it’s because they then don’t have to pay wages to competent, talented and motivated reporters, instead they just fill page upon page of illiterate and innacurate drivel on the internet. Ds tt rap it up 4u?

    Russell Cavanagh (06/01/2009 13:03:08)
    It’s crazy really. As recently as 2007, a TMP survey found that people trusted advertising in local papers 77% more than those seen on TV or the internet.

    herrmuller (06/01/2009 13:41:55)
    If I were the betting sort, my money would be on Johnston Press, though I understand someone senior bought rather a lot of shares recently when the price hit rock bottom! Maybe he knows something we don’t.

    Northern hack (06/01/2009 14:20:39)
    ‘Prof’ Greenslade has been peddling this line for as long as I can remember to anyone who is willing to listen. Like most classroom hacks, I doubt he could find his way round a newsroom these days.

    Kathryn Bradley (06/01/2009 15:38:57)
    Does it matter whether the article is in print or on the internet?
    You still need a competent journalist to research and write the thing. There will alwa
    ys be jobs for local journalists – even if there are no local newspapers.
    Where do you think BBC news get half of their content from? Even the regional news programmes and press agencies source stories from local papers. Nothing can compare to working in the heart of a community when it comes to getting the exclusives so let us stop all this doom mongering and look forward to better times ahead.

    Dreading the future (06/01/2009 16:33:09)
    I’ve just taken the opportunity to visit the “citizen journalism” websites recommended by Chris Gaynor. If that’s the future, then heaven help us all. Both sites contain a mish-mash of bits of national and international news, served up by people who clearly have trouble stringing words and thoughts together and who evidently have agendas of their own.

    PaulWol (06/01/2009 21:48:18)
    The end is probably nigh for printed papers, but their brands will live on – online.
    The newsroom culture must change though. People argue that newsrooms are form of peer review, but a morning conference packed out with chubby white middle-class men isn’t the peer review people want.
    Give the whole newsroom input into how the paper is put together.
    Give the public the chance to vote up what goes onto the website’s front page.

    Jambo (07/01/2009 10:29:03)
    I think newspaper sales will stabalise soon.
    And then the industry can ‘go from there’.
    I think some of these doommongers think that the printed form will vanish – demand says no.

    Dan Depan (07/01/2009 16:15:36)
    great idea Paul … let’s call it Strictly Editing Newspapers or the News X-tra Factor, or Britain’s got literacy.
    Mind you the public is dumb enough to pay £1.50 to vote for some imbecilic “celebrity” so perhaps there is much money to be made – management bonuses (and more job cuts) all round.