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ABCs: Did vote on UK break-up help win regional press circulation battle?

The national debate over Scotland’s future may have saved the latest circulation ‘vote’ on UK regional newspapers from total wipe-out.

Only one newspaper in the whole of Britain registered a sales increase in the ABC figures for the first six months of 2014.

The Sunday Herald enjoyed a one per cent rise in its January-June stats to take the undisputed title of best print performer across Britain.

And the Herald & Times Group’s own internal figures for the subsequent July and early August 2014 period show this rate of growth increasing further, to 13.5pc year-on-year for the first two weeks of this month, which equates to more than 28,000 copies sold.

Editor Richard Walker said that the weekly paper’s choice to become the first regional to back Scottish independence helped, along with the launch in May of a new glossy magazine. The country goes to the polls on 18 September.

And Tim Blott, manager director of the Herald and Times’ title, was quick to give a positive slant to the ‘death-wish’ stories swirling around the industry.

He said: “What is interesting to note is that, despite a tendency by the media to report with alacrity, stories of its own demise, we at the Herald & Times Group are seeing a significant  increase in paid readership overall.

“We place our readers at the heart of our development strategy and will continue to provide news and content through whichever platforms they prefer.”

But the Herald was a shining beacon in an otherwise gloomy set of figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

All the rest of the UK weekly publications posted falling circulation figures – with some spectacular minuses recorded.

The Sleaford Target registered a 69pc fall while its sister publication, the Boston Target, saw sales drop by 41pc. The Target series has been affected by a decision to make it totally paid-for.

A similar decision at the beginning of this year saw The East Grinstead Courier switch from part paid for/part free to a purely paid-for publication – and as a result saw the ABC figure fall by 57pc.

But encouragingly since the change the weekly has registered a 13.9pc year-on-year increase in its paid-for sales for the period from January to June 2014 – rising by 510 copies per week from an average 3,648 to 4,158.

Back across the border in Kent, the Local World-owned Folkestone Herald saw a 23pc reversal in circulation fortunes.

Northern Ireland showed a flicker of resistance against the tide of sales’ falls. The Banbridge Chronicle, Newry Reporter and Sunday Life title all recorded drops of between three and four per cent.

The current set of ABCs covers titles whose sales are audited six-monthly, many titles having now switched to a once-a-year audit.


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  • August 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Great…the only way a regional newspaper can gain a miniscule circulation rise is to cave in to the headbangers who want to break up Britain.

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  • August 28, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Well done Richard. Courageous move that has been interesting to follow. Should independence happen you can blow your trumpet and demonstrate how a bit of self-belief was the turning point for both the paper and the country.

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