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Regional dailies "dead in the water" says pundit

Media pundit Roy Greenslade has repeated his prediction that regional daily newspapers will all but disappear within a decade.

Speaking on the Today Programme on BBC Radio Four this morning, the former Mirror editor said regional dailies were “dead in then water.”

Mr Greenslade, who recently agreed to become a community correspondent for The Argus, Brighton, was taking part in a radio discussion with former Northern Echo editor Peter Sands.

They were meant to be talking about London Evening Standard’s “we’re sorry” campaign in which the paper apologises to Londoners – but the talk quickly turned to the future of the regional press.

Mr Sands said that if papers successfully adapted to a print and internet model and were prepared to get off diary stories and develop campaigns, they had a future.

“There is life in these old dogs yet,” he added.

But Mr Greenslade was adamant that while local weeklies would survive, regional dailies would find it harder and harder to find a formula capable of uniting their disparate readerships.

“The regional daily is dead in the water. Their day is over. In ten years’ time there will hardly be any regional dailies at all,” he said.

Mr Sands suggested that some regional papers might be able to flourish under more local ownership with smaller profit margins.

But Mr Greenslade argued that local owners would not be able to run them as cheaply as the big companies are able to achieve currently through economies of scale.


Midlander (06/05/2009 12:38:04)
You only have to look at the current quality of regional dailies to see that Mr Greenslade is right. If newspaper companies don’t stop dictating to their readers, beat down their editorial teams until they no longer care, and assume they know best then they will soon be extinct. Lets hope these big companies disappear in the fog of administration and bankruptcy and whilst there may be casualties in terms of staff let us hope that local people, businesses or entrepreneurs will fill the void with a new generation of independent papers focussed on their communities. Greenslade has a knack of rubbing reporters the wrong way but I can see sense in what he is saying.

John (06/05/2009 16:56:53)
In areas like Newcastle, though, the papers will survive as long as the papers there keep focusing on what their readers want – football.
In other areas where that is less important they must rely on news content and there’s less of an appetite for that and it takes more editorial staff to turn around news pages.
I agree though, the end is nigh.

Steve Dyson (06/05/2009 17:36:11)
Greenslade enjoys playing around with profound ideas he’s formed in cosy, ivory tower wine bars. He just loves the sound bite, especially when it gets his name on the airwaves, media columns and websites (like here!), ‘justifying’ his well-paid role as a ‘meejah’ pundit. In reality, (with all due respects, Roy) he knows precious little about the detailed challenges facing regional journalism and how various groups are trying to tackle this. Get him out and about to witness what’s actually going on at ground level and he’s genuinely amazed. He also struggles to properly discuss or differentiate the cyclical element of the downturn we are in from the structural change that we simply have to adapt to. He’s become a doom merchant that the Beeb and other print detractors love to roll out. Well done Peter Sands for sticking to his guns; more of us need to express our various opinions as and when Greenslade pops his head up lest he becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

biter (06/05/2009 18:50:13)
I wish ‘doomsayer’ Greenslade would button it personally.

Pedrobob (07/05/2009 09:33:05)
Roy is a long-standing doom-monger about the regionals. He’s been harping on about this at mediaguardian forever. It’s boring, wrong, and does the industry no favours. I beleive that yes, things will change, but the good regionals will adapt and survive. Hopefully dinosaurs like Roy and his unhelpful pearls of wisdom won’t.

Michael (07/05/2009 10:59:01)
Regional dailies need to be both an alternative national and alternative weekly, combining the news and features fo both, rememberi ng that readers want the same content now that they have always wanted – local news, hatch, match and despatch, local events, golden weddings, etc etc etc Though that gets a bit more tricky in places where the ethnic and cultural mix is different. Shoudl we look at papers more geared to their readership rather than a catch-all model?

olderhackette (07/05/2009 11:51:01)
The evidence is on G’s doorstep. The Argus as a superb multi-edition proper daily evening (not morning) sold more than 100,000 in the 80s. It’s lucky to break about 30,000 now and has only one edition serving 1.5 million people across Sussex (well mostly Brighton and Hove actually).
That said, the much-reduced staff perform miracles each day and its sports coverage is second to none for the limited big-name scope it has (mediocre Brighton and Hove Albion team and no Premiership team in sight)

hen’s teeth (07/05/2009 13:14:02)
So what exactly is your point, olderhackette? Every regional evening sold bucketloads in the 80’s when they could charge what they wanted for Motors, Jobs and property advertising, the only competition for regional info. & entertainment was local radio, and football clubs didn’t have their own websites. The world has changed and it’s taken a recession to make major structural changes an imperative, rather than something to worry about in the future. Let’s hope that in the process we don’t rip the heart out of our industry – it’s worth fighting for.

Derek (07/05/2009 16:31:29)
Cycle of Evolution. Remember, papers started off reporting the courts and had loads of adverts. We’re going back to this! Which isn’t a bad thing in modern day britain’s newspaper obsessed cult of celebrity. Too many papers are bloated dinasours anyway. Who wants to read about some doofus journos’ ramblings, travel sections about Spain’s best beaches, and what to look for in a continental sausage? That’s why we have twitter and blogs. I mean….the internet cull will definetly sort the men from the boys.

The ghost of Roger Blythe (11/05/2009 16:24:04)
Hey Dyson mate, you shout down one of the most authoritative and trusted media commentators at your peril. Ask yourself this question too: how many people under 30 do you see reading a regional newspaper? They just haven’t got an appetite for them. What’s more local papers just ain’t cool..