A former editor has questioned whether weekly free newspapers are becoming an “endangered species” after the closure of one of his old titles.
Richard says The Advertiser was closed “quietly” by owner Trinity Mirror just before Christmas, a move he described on his personal blog as a “pauper’s funeral for this once hallowed piece of newsprint.”
On his blog, Richard wrote: “Is the free weekly free newspaper on the endangered species list? In the late 70s and throughout the 80s and 90s the free newspaper was a must-have and must-be seen to have toy of every newspaper group.
“They were a cash cow, free to thousands of more readers than their paid for chums, hitting thousands of homes a week, even if readers didn’t want them. Often cheap to run with cheaper advertising, they were the ugly sister, but effective in bringing in revenue.
“Advertisers loved them with their large distribution network. Hacks were not so kind and laughed in darkened corners of pubs as they described using them for their cat’s litter tray.
“Free newspapers were like border guards, making sure no other newspaper group was tempted to set up a paid for or free newspaper in their area.”
Richard, now a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Derby, recalled The Advertiser was a “beast” in its heyday, with multiple editions and a distribution of up to 80,000 which brought in more than £20,000 a week.
He told HTFP: “It’s sad to see the Advertiser close, it was part of the fabric of North Staffordshire life for many years. However, newspaper businesses have to adapt to the changing media landscape. If a publication can’t make enough money or attract advertisers, then there is little alternative but to shut it down.”
“The newspaper format of throwing a variety of content at readers is not necessarily what people now want, because they are their own editors and can choose what they want to read by going online.
“The web has created this unbundling of news which is why niche publications are generally thriving, because they have a specific, targeted audience.”
Trinity Mirror has declined to comment.