The Reading Evening Post is set to switch to twice-weekly publication as part of a radical cost-cutting plan by its owner Guardian Media Group.
Up to 95 jobs are also under threat at GMG’s Surrey and Berkshire divisions as a result of the proposals which are being outlined to staff today.
The proposals, which also include the closure of four district offices and two weekly papers, follow yesterday’s announcement of 150 potential job losses at sister company MEN Media.
The Evening Post – one of the few daily papers to post a circulation rise in the recent ABC figures – will switch from five to two editions per week while the paid-for Esher News and Mail and Aldershot Mail will close.
Around 35 editorial jobs will be lost across all editorial departments and offices in Esher, Wokingham and two in Aldershot could close. All staff will switch to work in either Reading or Guildford.
The Evening Post’s circulation rose by 5.9pc year-on-year between July and December 2008, partly as a result of giving away free copies.
Its average daily circulation currently stands at 12,879, 83pc of which is reckoned to be paid-for.
“If we want to continue to be able to do this, we need to find a new, sustainable, lower-cost business model to support it. The economic viability of local and regional newspapers is under very real and imminent threat.
“The decision about job losses has been a very difficult one to make, and I deeply regret that it has been necessary.
“Nonetheless, I do believe this is the right decision for the future of the businesses and for the majority of staff who will remain with them.
“There is a successful future for local and regional journalism in the commercial sector, but we need to protect our businesses now to give ourselves the best chance of reaching it.
“Some argue that our industry has no future. I think this is completely wrong – people still want local and regional journalism, and advertisers want to reach those people.”
The decision to move away from the daily publication of the title marks another stage in the gradual demise of former owner Thomson Regional Newspapers’ 1960s dream of a network of daily papers orbiting London.
Other Evening Post titles were launched by TRN in Luton and Hemel Hempstead but Reading’s was the only one to survive.
Sad but not surprised (12/03/2009 10:10:43)
This is not just about the credit crunch – this is about the Surrey newspapers being run by people who do not understand the newspaper business. They have failed to invest in quality journalism and have allowed their papers to become dull and out-of-touch with the communities they represent. If the Surrey papers had a rapport with their readers, they might have ridden out the current advertising downturn. Unfortunately the Surrey papers have become increasingly irrelevant and inspire little reader loyalty. It’s no surprise advertisers cannot be persuaded to spend money with them.
Radical changes should have been made to the Aldershot-based News & Mail titles at least five years ago but the management has soldiered on with an outdated format and edition structure. Perhaps now they might make the changes that have been staring them in the face for so long. But don’t bet on it.
The Reading paper is a much stronger proposition. It is a vibrant newspaper worth reading and it does reflect the community it serves. It has much more chance of adapting to survive these tough times.
loco (12/03/2009 10:22:23)
Mark Dodson quote “people still want local and regional journalism”.
So how do they deliver this?
Close four district offices and two papers.
OK it might be financially imperative to do this.
But don’t insult the intelligence of readers or hacks by pretending you can still deliver the goods. JP, Newsquesk, Trinity et al have proved clearly you cannot.
Time to smell the coffee management.
Lister (12/03/2009 12:00:22)
You’re right, Loco. Our industry is being run on a business model designed for times when the world was sloshing with money. We can see that, but management have drawn their wagons into a tight circle. Journalists can change and adapt – and we do. Managment are seemingly incapable of this, and it’s time they and their strategies were replaced.
Lynne C (25/03/2009 16:52:18)
Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG Regional Media, said: “The role of MEN Media and S&B Media is to produce great journalism for our readers and users.”
No it’s not. It is to make as much money as possible for as little outlay as possible. If Mr Dodson could get away with reproducing the telephone directory in place of editorial, he would.
Oh, and the provincial newspaper world has never ever been “sloshing with money”. Too many newspapers been run by tight-fisted advertising numpties who have never had any respect for editorial and got by on the goodwill of experienced reporters who were daft enough to do it; and yes, I was one of them!