Local approach helps weeklies put on sales

Britain’s weekly newspaper paper market declined overall in the latest set of regional ABC’s – but there were some strong individual performers.

The Kent Messenger maintained its longstanding position as best-selling regional newspaper ahead of the Mansfield Chad, despite a circulation drop of two per cent to 53,987. The Barnsley Chronicle took third place from Cornwall’s West Briton, which suffered a 9.7 per cent fall.

The average drop for individual weekly titles was 2.4 per cent – considerably better than the regional dailies. Losses of 10 per cent or more year-on-year hit 23 titles.

Newquest’s St Alban’s Observer took one of the biggest hits, with an 18.5 per cent drop from 3,481 to 2,383. Trinity Mirror-owned West Midlands title the Bedworth Echo took a 23.6 per cent dive year-on-year, from 3,104 to 2,370.

London-based papers fared particularly badly. Newquest’s Richmond and Twickenham Times, which axed longstanding editor Paul Mortimer in June, saw a year-on-year fall of 18.6 per cent.

Mortimer was first suspended in January and appealed owner Newsquest’s decision to axe his position but lost. It is the first time in the paper’s history that it has been without a dedicated editor.

The Newham Recorder, based in London’s East End, suffered a 16.5 per cent drop in circulation and the London Newspaper Group, which publishes the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle and the Kensington and Chelsea News, dipped 16.8 per cent, from 3,714 to 3,089.

The only London weekly to put on sales was Archant’s Hackney Gazette, with a 2.3 per cent rise.

The 2,580-circulation Helston edition of Newsquest-owned Packet Newspapers, based in Falmouth, saw its circulation rise year-on-year by 13.8 per cent.

Editor-in-chief Terry Lambert said the rise was down to “good old-fashioned local journalism”. “We’ve had some good exclusives, lots of pictures of local people… We serve a small community and our main competitors don’t cover local things in the way we do,” he said.

In Scotland, the Ayr Advertiser series saw its figures rise from 5,498 to 6,515, up 18.5 per cent, while the Irvine Times increased by 18.3 per cent. Advertiser managing director Helena Morrow said her paper’s success was down to its coverage being as local as possible. “Our story count has doubled and we’ve increased pagination, but the main thing is we have served and represented the views of local people.”

In Northern Ireland the biggest increase among weeklies was the independent Derry News, which had a rise of 20.3 per cent to 5,487.

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