Now Trinity Mirror regional director David Higgerson, left, has cited the two cases as proof that the ownership structure of newspapers makes little difference to the commercial challenges facing them.
Wrote David: “To those within in the industry and tasked with delivering a future, it’s becoming increasingly clear that regardless of ownership structure, every publisher is facing the same challenge: to make enough money to remain in business.
“As events in Oldham have shown, regardless of ownership structure or profit requirement, if a publication isn’t making money, it can’t survive.
“Journalists love a David v Goliath battle. Steve Dyson picked up that theme in his recent column on HoldtheFrontPage entitled: “The future is beautifully small and beautifully local.” He celebrates a series of publishers entering the market – but is it that simple?
“Look at the South London Press going into administration after being sold on to its managers by Tindle (before being bought), or the temporary shutdown of the Sunday Independent earlier this year. Both have benefitted from new owners coming in – but if small were beautiful, then surely that wouldn’t have been required.
“The Cleethorpes Chronicle opened in the late 2000s, and claimed to be bringing a dedicated newspaper back to Cleethorpes for the first time in decades. By some commentators, it was heralded as what publishers should be doing: Keeping it local, being skeptical about digital and having faith in print.
“It closed during the summer. I always thought it was a particularly innovative newspaper – simple things like publishing two weeks of what’s on every week because readers like to plan ahead impressed me – but when it closed its owners explained that the challenge to gain enough revenue was just too great.”
Added David: “Years ago, being super local and seen as such was an insurmountable strength commercially. Two words changed that: Facebook and Google.
“They aren’t local, but they devote millions to make themselves first choice in the local market for digital advertising spend.
“They don’t spend a penny on creating content – and only recently have they actively sought to help publishers financially. Should they do more? You bet.
“That’s why I am circumspect about the long-term viability of the new generation of hyperlocal news publications in print. Are they providing something different to Facebook or Google, or have their clients not yet discovered what they can achieve locally through both?”
However Steve has returned to his “small is beautiful” theme in his latest blog published today, chiding Newsquest and Trinity Mirror for “exploiting” the situation in Oldham and arguing that it should disqualify them from receiving help from Google or Facebook.
Newsquest is launching the Oldham Times tomorrow while TM has unveiled a new Oldham edition of the Manchester Evening News – but Steve believes they should have waited until local radio station Revolution 96.2’s attempt to save the Chronicle has been played out.
Wrote Steve: “Why should such publishers get any handouts when they seem so keen to exploit the markets of smaller local publishers in serious financial trouble?
“I’m talking about you, Newsquest, launching the weekly Oldham Times, and you, Trinity Mirror, launching an Oldham edition of the Manchester Evening News, while administrators still search for a buyer-come-rescuer of what was the independent but now closed Oldham Chronicle.”