As regional daily circulations continue to tumble, one option for smaller titles is to go weekly, a subject discussed at the Society of Editors Regional Conference on Monday.
Which got me thinking: just how many titles have recently made the plunge, and how have they fared as once-a-week as opposed to daily print reads? And who might be next?
Thirteen UK dailies have converted to weekly publication since September 2007 – all of them English, and 11 former ‘evening’ titles whose daily sales had fallen to between 10,000 and 20,000.
Ten of these former evenings have since recorded higher weekly sales than their last average daily figures, my calculations based on the latest ABC audits showing each ‘rise’ at between 14pc and nearly 50pc.
The word ‘rise’ is in inverted commas because there is some industry debate about the comparability of new weekly sales against old daily figures.
Five of the converted evenings are owned by Northcliffe, now Local World; another five are Johnston Press titles; and one was owned by GMG Regional Media, now Trinity Mirror.
The other two converted weeklies are former ‘morning’ newspapers in multi-title cities owned by Trinity Mirror, whose daily sales (actively purchased and at full cover price) had both fallen to around 6,500.
Neither of these titles have seen the sales rises enjoyed by former evenings, with the full cover price weekly sales of each now below 6,000.
No conversions have been made by Newsquest, Archant or any of the independent publishers. Yet.
Let’s take a detailed look at each of the 13 ‘new’ weeklies.
Bath Chronicle. By July 2007, this traditional evening’s average daily sale was well under 13,000. In the first year after conversion, it was selling 20,000-plus a week. Five years on, the Chronicle is still selling 15,000-plus as a weekly, nearly 20pc more than it sold in its final period as a daily.
Reading Post. Then owned by GMG Regional Media, this ex-evening converted into two weekly editions in 2009 – one paid-for on Wednesdays, the Reading Post; the other free on Fridays, Get Reading. While the paid-for weekly’s sales are now only just over 10,000, much lower than the last daily figure of 12,879, the mass-distribution free also circulates nearly 67,000. Both titles are now owned by Trinity Mirror.
Birmingham Post. This Trinity Mirror morning title became a bumper-sized weekly in Autumn 2009 and now has full cover price sales of 5,393, some 15pc lower than its last daily comparable figures.
Torquay Herald Express. Following the Bath success, this was the first of a series of Northcliffe papers that converted from mid-2011. This title was selling just over 20,000 copies in its final daily ABC and, after two full, six-month audits, now sells 26,000-plus as a weekly, an increase of nearly 29pc.
Scunthorpe Telegraph. This Northcliffe title’s last daily sales were just over 15,500 before it converted in August 2011. It now sells just over 18,000 a week, an increase of nearly 17pc.
Exeter Express and Echo. The third Northcliffe evening converted in September 2011. Its last daily sales were recorded at just over 16,500; its weekly sales are now well over 19,500, an increase of nearly 20pc.
Lincolnshire Echo. The Echo was the last Northcliffe conversion (so far) in October 2011, with a final daily sale of just over 16,500. Its latest weekly sale was 20,500-plus, an increase of nearly 25pc.
Liverpool Post. Just after the Northcliffe flurry, Trinity Mirror converted its Liverpool morning at the start of 2012, when its active, full-price daily sale was around 6,500. As a weekly, it now sells just over 5,700.
Halifax Courier. Next came five Johnston Press evenings in spring 2012. The Courier sold over 14,000 as a daily, and in the last full ABC audit was selling nearly 19,000 as a weekly – up by 30pc-plus.
Scarborough News. This title’s last daily sale was just under 10,000; its first full weekly ABC figure was nearly 15,000 – up nearly 50pc.
Northampton Chronicle & Echo. This title’s last daily sale was just over 15,000; its first full weekly ABC was 19,500, up 28pc-plus.
Northamptonshire Telegraph. This Kettering paper’s last daily sale was just over 17,000; its first full weekly ABC was 19,000-plus, up nearly 14pc.
Peterborough Telegraph. This title’s last daily sale was just under 14,000; its first full weekly ABC was well over 16,500, up 20pc-plus.
So who’s next? Obviously, there will be significant differences in individual marketplaces, but my money is on at least three of the following 13 dailies converting in the next 12 months:
The Leader, Wrexham, Flintshire & Chester, last ABC 14,545, latest decline trend -6.1pc (although Celtic titles appear to be more resistant); Gloucestershire Echo, Cheltenham, 14,111, -6.8pc; Colchester Daily Gazette, 14,071, -9.9pc; Norwich Evening News, 13,322, -19.3pc; Greenock Telegraph, 12,773, -8.2pc (another Celtic argument could be made); Worcester News, 12,664, -6.7pc; Shields Gazette, 12,646, -10.7pc; North West Evening Mail, Barrow, 12,281, -8.4pc; Oldham Evening Chronicle, 12,019, -11.9pc; Hartlepool Mail, 11,473, -14.3pc; Burton Mail, 11,138, -6.6pc; News and Star, Carlisle (East and West), 15,084, -6.4pc; and the Paisley Daily Express, 7,232, +1.3pc (although again, it’s a Celt, and with a positive trend).
Judging by the experiences of the first baker’s dozen, it might be better for some of the above 13 to go weekly sooner rather than later.