'We leave the boring stories to our rivals' - how a few regional newspapers are bucking the trend on print sales

Only eight out of the 270 paid-for regional weekliy newspapers audited by ABC grew their sales last year.

There are more than 370 paid-for weekly newspapers in the UK, but around 100 titles owned by Local World and Johnston Press have now dropped out of ABC.

The growing titles were:

  • Anandale Herald and Moffat News: 356 (75p) up 31.4 per cent – DNG Media 
  • Guardian (Northwhich, Winsford & Middlewich): 11,942 (£1), up 19.1 per cent – Newsquest
     
  • Isle of Thanet Gazette: 10,968 (80p), up 5.8 per cent – Local World
     
  • Irvine Times: 2,677 (75p), 3.1 per cent – Romanes Media Group, formerly Clyde and Forth Press
     
  • Border Telegraph: 3,436 (65p), up 2 per cent – Romanes Media Group, formerly Clyde and Forth Press
     
  • Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News: 2,586 (50p), up 1.4 per cent – Newsquest
     
  • Prestwich and Whitefield Guide: 1,711 (50p), up 0.9 per cent – Newsquest
     
  • Scunthorpe Telegraph: 18,412 (£1.10), up 0.7 per cent – Local World.

Press Gazette spoke to some of the weeky titles bucking the trend to discover the secrets behind their sales success. We also spoke to the editor of top-performing daily title, The Irish News.

The Irvine Times 

Editor of the Scottish title Roisin McGroarty said:  “In the past year we have been striving hard to really engage our readers, reintroducing community pages and ensuring we offer a wide variety of news. We will continue to work closely with our community and provide the news and content that only a local newspaper can provide."

The Irvine Times controls access to its online content by requiring readers to either fill out a survey for an advertiser or share an article on social media before they can read it.

The Border Telegrarph

Based in Galashiels, Scotland, The Border Telegraph grew its sales by 2 per cent year on year.

Editor Ally McGilvray said: “In the past couple of years we've concentrated more on the towns in our core patch and not tried to spread ourselves too thin. We've cut out a lot of nonsense and tried to focus on stories which we find fun to write – if we don't enjoy writing them, we can't expect the readers to enjoy reading them. We leave the boring stories to our rivals.

"We are very fortunate in that we now have an almost all local news team, including myself – I started off delivering this paper as a schoolboy more than 20 years ago. And, most importantly, we listen to feedback from our readers – and act on it. Our Facebook page has proved a great way to interact with new readers. If we don't give them what they want they are not shy in letting us know.”

The Isle of Thanet Gazette

This Kent-based newspaper was one of two big Local World weeklies to grow their sale year on year.

Editor Rebecca Smith said: “Why it is doing so well is not an exact science and hard to say definitively.  I think it’s down to a number of factors, not least hard-working reporters and photographers out on their patch delivering the news, pictures and features that people want.”

She also cited the paper's new property section as a reason behind its success: “It has a firm emphasis on local content and people and has been very well received by readers and advertisers alike. Our sales and marketing team are incredible. We have invested in branding, on street marketing and active selling within our communities which I believe has paid dividends.”

The Irish News

The best-performing regional daily newspaper, by some margin, was The Irish News. The Belfast-based daily dropped 1.7 per cent year on year to an average of 40,236 a day. This compared with an industry average decline of 14 per cent.

Editor Noel Doran said: “We’ve had a lot of upheaval in this part of the world and we’ve had to print this. We’ve highlighted the damage that street violence causes. We’ve printed very strong, graphic, front-page coverage. How we report on street violence has been a key factor in our continued relevance as a newspaper.”

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