Exploding newspapers: Not just here

Regional newspapers in the UK are suffering sharply declining circulation.

: Roy Greenslade finds the lessons in the numbers:

This is a truly shocking set of circulation results and confirms that the gentle downward sales trend has turned into a cliff-fall. Of course, there is one central mitigating factor. It is clear that readers are becoming viewers, choosing to read on screen rather than in print. . . .

I fully accept that we are in the midst of a communications revolution and print is suffering from its effects. Britain is hardly alone in that respect. In the United States and in Scandinavia, the same kinds of problems are occurring for paid-for newspapers. But I believe Britain is different in one important respect (and I realise that this is a controversial statement): its regional and local journalism is just not good enough to retain readers let alone win new ones.

  • bittorent

    I live in Manchester and I think that, in a strange way, giving away the Evening News has kind of devalued the product in the eyes of many people. I don’t think it’s conscious, but just a feeling you get when you see street sellers offering them to people.

    A target of 200,000 copies by next year seems VERY optimistic when you are only shifting 115,000 now and 60,000 of those are free :-(

  • e

    I couldn’t agree with you more – regional and local journalism is just not good enough to retain any kind of viable audience.

  • Bittorent – while I agree with your feeling, I must point out that the MEN sells 118,000 PLUS it gives away a further 60,000.
    The internet has created a whole new business model for news organisations to work out. Why is it that readers expect information free on the internet? And why are they prepared to spend so much for less information via their mobile phone?

  • stephanie

    it is sad that the media has to stoop to such low levels of coverage in order to sell…what happened to the days of decent journalism? Where is the global coverage of, say, the Millennium Development Goals that one used to expect?

  • Exactly. When newsrooms have been systematically starved for money, when staffs are cut to the bone to maintain artificially high profits, newsgathering suffers. Real readers want real news. Not the Paris Hilton update, not pictures of cute doggies, but news.

    It is tragic that the tradition of being an impartial advocate for the people has been lost in the search for profits. When the press goes, can bloggers take their place? I just don’t think so.

  • The only scary thing about this article is that anyone is shocked by this. It is similar to the real estate bubble. In 2005, any amount of research would tell you there was an inevitability on its way. When it finally affects business, people were somehow “shocked.” Many publishers have not adequately prepared for this, which is a shame. The last thing these papers need to be is cut any more to the bone.

  • I recently signed up for online versions of the WSJ and Economist. They’re cheaper than the paper and you cant do an advanced search on pulp.

    I think I know why nobody wrote about the gigantic housing bubble last year. Journalists didn’t want to admit that they’d be losing their jobs and watching the value of their homes plummet simultaneously. Thank god for the honesty of blogs, a lot more people would have bought at the peak.

  • bittorent

    Yes sorry I misquoted the figures for the Manchester Evening News. One of the reasons why journalism is so bad is because of the appalling wages that are paid. Some full-time journalists are only paid £15,000 a year and have to take evening jobs to get by.

    Meanwhile Murdoch’s new London free paper is trying to take all rights in the work of freelance writers and photographers.

    I guess many experienced people have done what I did at the end of the ’90’s — I moved on to better things.

  • I think it has to do more with the fact that everything is available electronically. People just aren’t dependent on printed articles anymore. It may have to do with the journalism quality, but from an outside perspective it seems society just likes having things right when they want it, and print doesn’t work that way.