The regional newspaper market has embarked on numerous publishing strategies in order to stem the seemingly inevitable decline in sales.
Metropolitan papers are dishing out their papers for free, knocking headline sales but reaching more readers than ever.
Surprisingly to some, web-first strategies such as Newsquest’s have reaped rewards in print sales. Publishers are changing with the times and reaching out to their ever-growing ethnic communities through foreign and geographical editions.
Many ‘evening papers’have begun printing overnight. It saves them money (because they can be distributed with the national morning papers rather than a special delivery service) – and the hope is that the extra time at point of sale means circulation may receive a boost. The flip-side is that they can rarely carry ‘on-the-day news’in print.
Out of seven newspapers to have switched to overnight printing, three – The Bolton News, the Lancashire Telegraph and the Oxford Mail – have seen consecutive sales rises or have slowed their sales decline following the move.
The Bolton News: hit
Before switching to overnight printing in September 2006 the paper was down 7.2 per cent in the first six months of that year. The drop has slowed in consecutive periods, from being down 4.4 per cent to down 1.7 per cent in the last period.
Lancashire Telegraph: hit
The Blackburn-based Lancashire Telegraph’s sales continued to slow its circulation drop after going on sale in the morning. It went from -5.4 per cent to -2.6 per cent and now to -2.5 per cent in the latest period. The Preston-base Telegraph has faired well against the rival Lancashire Evening Post, which has posted -8.1 per cent, -6 per cent and -5.8 per cent drops in the same periods.
Oxford Mail: hit
The Oxford Mail’s switch to overnight printing in February 2006 saw sales fall 1.3 per cent last year and 1.5 per cent in the following period. In the latest set of ABCs it is up 1.3 per cent.
South Wales Evening Post: mixed
From October 2005 the South Wales Evening Post was made available on the newsstands from 7.30am. The move saw sales improve from being down 3.2 per cent before the move to up 0.1 per cent afterwards. However, the good news may have now come to an end, as the paper is down 3.5 per cent in this latest period.
Express & Echo: mixed
The Express and Echo in Exeter took a sales knock following the overnight strategy in June 2006, plunging from down 4.4 per cent to down 8.7 per cent. It has slowed the decline in the latest period, to -6.1 per cent.
The Press: miss
The Press in York’s circulation has gone through three consecutive declines since the switch in April 2006, from -2.5 per cent to -4.7 per cent, and now -5 per cent.
Coventry Telegraph: miss
The Coventry Telegraph switched in June 2006, but the move has done little to stem the flow of deserting readers. After the move the paper lost 5.9 per cent, a slight improvement on the 6.8 per cent decline before the move. The figure fell again to -6 per cent in the latest ABC report.