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Circulation drop for all but two UK regional dailies

All but two UK regional daily newspapers saw circulation declining in the second half of 2012, according to the latest ABC figures.

Today’s figures, covering the period July to December 2012, showed some regional titles losing almost a fifth of their sales compared to the same period in 2011.

The two exceptions to the overall picture of decline were the Paisley Daily Express, which saw its sales increase by 1.3pc,and the Ipswich Star, which put on 8.5pc circulation although more than a third of its copies were given away free.

Elsewhere there were big falls for some of the industry’s most iconic titles, with top-selling daily the Express & Star down 10pc from 104,262 a year ago to 93,799, and the Manchester Evening News down 11.6pc.

The Ipswich Star owed its strong performance to its conversion to the part-free, part-paid for model, with only 63pc of its copies paid-for in the second half of 2012.

It followed a 20.2pc year-on-year circulation rise for the Archant-owned title in first half of 2012.

Among 100pc paid-for titles, the 1.3pc increase posted by the Trinity Mirror-owned Paisley Daily Express represnted the best performance of any UK daily.

Allan Rennie, editor-in-chief of TM’s Media Scotland division said:  “This is a tremendous testament to the hard work and talent of editor John Hutcheson and all his team at the Paisley Daily Express.

“A bright new design, fantastic stories that promote Paisley and great scoops have driven this sales result. The great thing is the latest figures are showing that sales growth is actually accelerating.

“However, the Paisley Daily Express isn’t resting on its laurels as the country’s best performing daily and we’ll be launching new initiatives and promotions to stay where we belong, at No. 1.”

The biggest fallers among daily newspapers were the Norwich Evening News, whose circulation was down 19.3pc, The Argus, Brighton, down 19.6pc and the Doncaster Star, down 19.3pc.

And many other titles also saw double-digit declines, including the Blackpool Gazette at 16.4pc, the Lancashire Evening Post at 15.3pc, the East Anglian Daily Times at 15pc, the Wigan Evening Post at 15.3pc, the Nottingham Post at 14.3pc and the Hartlepool Mail at 14.3pc.

The Scottish titles to record the worst falls in circulation were the Glasgow Evening Times at 13.6pc and the Edinburgh Evening News at 13.7pc.

Among the best-performing regional dailies were the Press and Journal, Aberdeen, down 1.6pc, and the Guernsey Press & Star, down 1.5pc, while its sister title the Jersey Evening Post fell 2.2pc.

Other titles which performed better than most included the North Wales Daily Post which was down 3.4pc, the Liverpool Echo, down 4.5pc, and the Oxford Mail down 4.8pc.

The full list of circulation figures for UK regional dailies can be seen here.

13 comments

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  • February 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm
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    Here’s my analogy, for what it’s worth:

    Set up two identical shops, selling identical goods.

    All the potential customers are gathered in the town square.

    Shop 1 is just a few yards away, it’s modern and all the goods are free. It’s open 24/7. That’s the good news. However, the store manager relies on the distribution network of Shop 2 to get him his goods and he still has a big rent and wages bill at the end of the month. Without Shop 1, he must close.

    Shop 2 is up a hill, round a corner and all the goods must be paid for. It’s open during the day only and customers are falling away by the day. However, it does make money through some loyal shoppers who like the familiar format but unfortunately, the manager is forced to support Shop 1 financially and with infrastructure. His shop is good but he’s being drained by Shop 1 and will proabably have to lose more staff or even close.

    From the customer point of view, Store 1 is miles better.
    But by using it, they are gradually killing both stores.

    Try taking that business model to Dragon’s Den.

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  • February 28, 2013 at 9:05 am
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    Our local paper The Argus has lost all of its regional offices,does not go out of Brighton and reckons its a Sussex paper,it makes a splash from parts of Sussex that it does not sell a single paper in or ever been heard of,the management are out of date,the paper needs a big broom to sweep out all the dead wood before its too late.Overpriced and the staff underpaid,morale I can only imagine after these figures is at an all time low.

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  • February 28, 2013 at 9:42 am
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    Not sure there is a solution. I’ve noticed most people who comment on here seem to blame newspaper group CEOs and management. But, even without the bad decisions these people often make, we would still be on a downwards trajectory.

    The same old reasons come into play – internet, everyone expects things for free, reading habits have changed etc.

    I don’t see how you can change that. Just as numbers of people who use the high street is declining, so too are newspaper sales. The world is changing. And I’m not sure where the big money can be made now.

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  • February 28, 2013 at 9:46 am
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    As the decline in circulation now appears to be inexorable, with managements seemingly having no idea how to reverse the trend, it should be possible to predict for how long individual titles will continue to survive.

    In fact I read a piece recently that had pursued this exercise in respect of the nationals.

    Looking at the figures for weeklies, it appears that the switch from daily to weekly publication, while obviously cutting costs, has not had much long-term impact on circulation.

    I suspect that some once important regional titles, whose circulations are now less than a fifth of the sales they recorded in the 1980s, will simply eventually cease to exist in hard copy form. The depth of the circulation dip will make it unprofitable to continue producing a hard copy even once a week.

    Last week I was involved in a media awareness exercise with a group of masters degree students. The idea of buying a printed newspaper was totally alien to them.

    That is, sadly, the future. The impact on careers is appalling, to say nothing of the damage to democracy.

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  • February 28, 2013 at 9:48 am
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    Solution (And HR departments will hate this) Properly staff both shops.
    Instead of having staff from Shop 2 (paper)running exhausted up the hill to bale out staff Shop 1 (web) and then getting back to Shop 2 (paper) to find the ignored customers have gone away.
    With more staff specially dedicated to both operations no compromise on quality and both stand a chance of survival.
    Otherwise diving paper sales and increasing but hugely insufficient web income might prove Craig’s scenario true.
    Plenty of hacks looking for work!

    Phil

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  • February 28, 2013 at 10:31 am
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    I’d take that torturous model to Dragons’ Den only if the fire-breathers promised not to lose the will to live as I explained it (and that’s Dragons’ plural possessive).

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  • February 28, 2013 at 11:15 am
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    Paisley Daily Express given away free? Who subbed that?

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  • February 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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    In response to Craig:

    Why does shop 1 need shop 2? Online-only publishers (not newspapers online) – giving readers content they actually want and find useful – are doing fine.

    Problems with staffing shops 1 and 2 is that neither then provides customers with what customers want…that is now being delivered by shops 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…none of which has anything to do with shops 1 and 2 and all of which do not have the old hang-ups and processes of shop 2.

    Filling the shelves of shop 2 just to make it look full won’t attract customers. And filling the shelves with goods the customers don’t want won’t wash any more.

    That was fine when there was only one shop on that street…now there are hundreds. And they’re much more attractive for customers.

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  • February 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm
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    Solution – news on the web; in-depth analysis in the paper.

    Eg – web headline – Council Tax Rise

    paper headline – How Council Tax Rise affects you

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  • February 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm
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    Hold on here folks…

    The Paisley Daily Express cut its cover price from 48p to 20p, and it recorded a 1.3% increase? Woohoo.

    What is there to celebrate? That’s a massive under performance. Revenue will have gone through the floor.

    The Paisley Daily Express will go weekly by the end of 2013. Guaranteed. 2012 was a disaster for them.

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  • March 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm
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    Becoming remote from communities is at the heart of this problem. The worry is that we’ve gone too far down the road to put reporters back where they should be rather than locked up on out of town industrial parks.

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  • March 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm
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    Oh for God’s sake, give it up! Regional newspapers will be weekly, then free, then lucky to survive past the next 10 years, regardless of investment, differentiation from the web model or any other ridiculous concept.
    More and more people want information/news via online media and there’s nothing you can do to retain the historic ‘quality’ of the average regional at a level which people will want to buy. Even the nationals will only have a slightly longer shelf-life.
    Every city is seeing an increase in the number of little freemium mags, and related websites, on subjects such as theatre & arts, education, health, etc. Some may manage to make enough money to pay the wages of a very small staff and that’s about it.
    Regional newspapers have been too slow to mop up these niche areas and, for the most part, that ship has sailed. It’s easier to create a new start-up than it is to transform what already exists, especially with staff entrenched in their bad/old habits (ie desperately holding off a story in a bid to sell an extra 20 copies of the newspaper, then getting beaten to it).
    And hyperlocal news? Don’t make me laugh. That’ll generate interest but not enough to monetise and will end up being nothing more than a community project for people with a passion (ie bloggers).
    The only way regionals can retain or grow audience to monetise is to go where the customers are – online! Then get involved with the debate and discussion in the forums they are used to, but provide them with further analysis on your site in a hope that a few of them come over. This will enable them to find their own niche, if one still exists, but the concept of a busy regional newsroom will be dead very soon. A local newspaper website become a small number of writers, aggregators, bloggers or social media enthusiasts with an ads team generating enough cash to cover their salaries with maybe a few quid left over for their local owner at the end of the month.
    The big boys will look to sell it all off long before then and will squeeze the last remaining profits from print as they depart.

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