The UK’s top selling regional newspaper – the Wolverhampton Express and Star – is the latest to announce major cutbacks in the wake of the current economic downturn.
The regional press has experienced a drastic downturn in advertising revenue in recent months. This, coupled with the long-term decline in circulation that nearly all local newspapers are experiencing, has led to cutbacks across the industry in recent months.
The family-owned Midland News Association is to merge the two companies which run Wolverhampton-based daily, the Express and Star, and the Shropshire Star. The move will also affect their associated weeklies.
Unlike changes at Trinity Mirror Midlands, Archant’s Norwich titles and Trinity Mirror’s Welsh division – there will be no wholesale merger of editorial departments.
Some parts of production, finance and classified advertising will be merged – and the company said there may be some structural changes in editorial.
There will be a 10 per cent cut in overall staff – equating to around 135 jobs. The cutbacks will lead to an annual cost saving of £3 million.
Alan Harris, currently managing director of the Express & Star, will become managing director of the new joint company.
The company stressed that both papers would retain their separate identities with separate editors and journalists. The current edition structure at both newspapers will remain in place.
Explaining the changes, the company said that trading conditions had been very difficult and continued to decline with “seemingly little prospect of recovery over the next 18 months”.
The company said there has been a dramatic decline in revenues in employment, motoring and property advertising. At the same time, paper costs are on the up.
Both Midlands News Association’s daily titles out-performed the industry average in the latest regional newspaper ABC figures.
The Shropshire Star sold 70,574 in the first half of this year, down 4.4 per cent year-on-year.
The Express & Star sold 138,116, down 3.8 per cent year-on-year – making it the top-selling regional daily in the country.