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Make city daily a free newspaper, hyperlocal editor urges

Jeremy MortonA hyperlocal newspaper editor has urged a regional daily to switch from being a paid-for publication to a free title.

Jeremy Morton, left, who edits South Leeds Life, says the Yorkshire Evening Post should follow the example set by London’s Evening Standard.

Jeremy, whose monthly paper has a circulation of 5,500, said the old business model of paying for news was on its “last legs” in an editorial on the subject, but added print was “not dead”.

His comments come after South Leeds Life, which was launched in a reverse publishing venture after initially being an online-only operation, published its first public notice in its most recent edition.

Jeremy claimed the shop owner placing the advertisement was being quoted £1,600 plus VAT to put it in the YEP, and went with his free paper as a result of it being cheaper to advertise there.

In his editorial, he wrote: “Unfortunately most regional papers have been going backwards in terms of their journalistic coverage. This puts them in a vicious downward spiral. Circulation falls – advertising revenue falls – jobs get cuts – quality declines – circulation falls again.

“One symptom of how the regional press cling to their business model is the extortionate cost of placing legal notices. Due to archaic laws, legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. Some local papers, using their monopoly position, have pushed up the price of these adverts to try and balance the books.

“As a hyperlocal newspaper we’d like some of that business – isn’t that how the market is supposed to work? But we’ve heard from colleagues around the country that they have been deemed not to be a newspaper, often because like us they ‘only’ publish once a month. Leeds [City Council] seems to have taken a different approach, throwing the onus onto the advertiser.”

He added: “My advice to the YEP, for what it’s worth, would be to become a free paper as the London Evening Standard has done successfully, but Johnstone [sic] Press who own the YEP seem wedded to the old model. Perhaps they are too far down the road to be able to turn things around.

“I don’t know if there’s a long-term future for newspapers like the Yorkshire Evening Post, but I’m pretty sure there is at least a medium-term future for papers like ours, before everything goes online.”

James Mitchinson, editorial director for Johnston Press’s Yorkshire division, which includes the YEP, declined to comment.

2 comments

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  • October 16, 2017 at 8:33 am
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    Couldn’t agree more but unfortunately there really is no drive to make printed papers a success anymore at the larger publishers.

    As I’ve said before the key to a continued printing press was diversifying the business. At one time all the large publishers had 1000’s of people employed up and down the country delivering millions of items a week. They had distribution networks and vehicles all over every area. They had bases and locations both internally and externally contracted. They could have expanded there remit to take in more than just papers. They could have attacked the local advertising markets. Gone after national advertising booking as opposed to using an agency. They could have tagged on so many new ventures to expand what they currently do but unfortunately you don’t have real bushiness men in charge at these publishers. You have, in my opinion, hatchet men who get to the top by slashing and destroying people while stepping on as many of them as they can.But when there is nothing left to cut the only thing left is for them to walk away to another pot of gold and shut down the business.

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  • October 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm
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    Agree with all the above however( correct me if I’m wrong) I believe a council no longer has to place their PN or tender applications in the local paper, the requirement is to use the most effective medium to reach the local communities which these days is no longer in poorly selling local papers. Where I am the whole public announcement section collapsed when the rules changed resulting in devastating losses from a category deemed bullet proof for years as it was felt the councils had no alternative but to use the local rags here, now the shackles are off they’ve left in their droves taking huge sums of ad revenue, yes hiked to extortionate rates,with them choosing alternate methods and publications to get their messages out there.
    The price paid for taking advantage of a captive audience when they had one and another example of poor decision making and short term greed costing big dearly once the rug has been pulled.

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