Iliffe News 'highly likely' to consider daily to weekly switch

The chief executive of regional newspaper publisher Iliffe News & Media said it was ‘highly likely’the company would consider converting its three daily newspapers into weekly titles.

It comes after publishing rival Northcliffe Media announced plans to switch three of its daily newspaper – the Torquay Herald Express, Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Exeter Express & Echo – to weekly publications.

Iliffe chief executive David Fordham told Press Gazette that regional daily titles had been hit much harder in terms of circulation decline over the past twenty years than weeklies, adding: ‘As such, in some towns and cities the sales penetration of these titles will bring into question their effectiveness as an advertising medium.

‘All these pressures combined with continued changes in media consumption will inevitably lead regional publishers to at least review publishing patterns and models for many of our daily newspapers.”

Fordham said this would not always include a straight switch to weekly publication and could include part paid/part free models or ‘bi-weekly/thrice weekly publication”.

Iliffe’s portfolio includes three daily newspapers – including the Cambridge News (ABC circulation 20,987) and the Burton Mail (12,198) – eight paid-for weekly newspapers, 18 free newspapers and two Sunday free newspapers.

‘It is highly unlikely that during the next five to 10 years all regional dailies will convert to weekly publications,’he continued.

‘However, it is highly probably some of them will. The daily titles most likely to consider revising publishing will be those with an average sale of around 20,000 copies or less.

‘Within Iliffe News and Media we currently publish three daily titles all with circulation below 20,000 copies or less.

‘We have no immediate plans to convert any of these titles to a weekly format in the immediate future. However, it is highly likely that we will be forced into a review of our own future.”

Fordham said that Iliffe faced the same pressures as other regional publishers – including the steep rises in newsprint costs while trying to keep cover price down.

‘This is unsustainable in the long term,’he added.

Fordham was interviewed for an article in the September edition of Press Gazette asking leading industry figures whether there was still a place for regional dailies as more make the switch to weekly publication.

Northcliffe group managing director Steve Auckland said its new weeklies would have ‘more ad revenue on day one than they did in a week, and they’ll have higher ABCs”.

He added: ‘It will be up to the MDs and editors on whether publications take a weekly format.

‘It was the right thing to do in Torquay, Scunthorpe and Exeter. It might not be as profitable, for example, in Leicester and Hull. It all depends on the ad revenue from each area and which day we take most of that cash.”

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