A 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.”