The Western Daily Press is to beef up its coverage of Bath following the announcement that its stablemate The Bath Chronicle is to switch from being a daily newspaper to a weekly.
Four journalists are to be taken on at the morning title to help fill a new dedicated Bath edition. The paper’s Late City Final edition used to include Bath stories.
Daily Press editor Andy Wright said: ‘I think we may well share an office with The Bath Chronicle. We will certainly be changing a couple of sports pages and a couple of news pages from the main newspaper.’
The Chronicle announced last week that it would switch to weekly after 130 years as a daily, to help secure its future, leaving the small city with no dedicated daily newspaper.
Northcliffe has predicted that the weekly version of the Chronicle, to be published on a Thursday, will carry up to 250 pages, making it one of the biggest papers in the industry, while daily news updates will still appear on the website.
The Chronicle, which launched in 1760 as a weekly and switched to a daily in 1877, has seen sales fall from 13,871 in the second half of 2005 to 12,363 in the same period in 2006.
However, the paper said that over the past six months it was down just 0.8 per cent year on year – well above the industry average – after a relaunch and switching to overnight printing.
The paper’s editor, Sam Holliday, said: ‘If anything, we have managed to turn circulation around but we couldn’t just look in the short term,’ he said. ‘We were still only selling 12,000 to 13,000 a day.
‘Bath is a natural weekly territory. It’s a city that in many ways punches above its weight; it’s not as big as people think.
‘Our best selling day is a Thursday, when we do 15,000, but earlier in the week we sell just 11,000 or 12,000 and it is very difficult to persuade advertisers to advertise. In terms of jobs, property and motors they only advertise once a week anyway.
‘We took the decision, since we were in a position of strength, to make a move as bold as this now rather than make a panic move later.
‘There’s a quote by JFK that we have inherited: ‘The time to fix a leaking roof is when the sun is shining’,’Holliday said. He believed that switching to a weekly could also help other small-circulation dailies to survive in the current climate of falling sales and difficult advertising markets.
There are many other papers with small figures and it may be an option for them, and I have a feeling that everybody was waiting for somebody to do this. We are the first but we won’t be the last.
‘Rather than a being a struggling daily we are going to be one of the best weeklies in the country and we will produce a website every day of the week. The future is a mix of web and print.”
The move is likely to mean some job losses, but Holliday said he is hopeful that these would be minimal, leaving him with a large staff for a weekly title.
‘We haven’t confirmed any figures for job losses yet, but I’m confident that if I end up with what I think I
am going to get, we will have one of the best-sized weekly papers.
‘There are about 40-45 editorial staff on the paper. People have said we will be down to half that amount but I say it will be nothing like that figure.”
Holliday added that he hopes the sales revenue that will be lost through once-a-week sales will be offset by the production savings from printing once a week.
‘It’s difficult to make any predictions but I don’t think we will be any worse off at the end of this process. We should do better, which will secure the paper for the future. We can’t risk losing money,’he said.
Holliday said he also believed it unlikely that other Northcliffe evening papers would follow suit and become weekly, because most of them have relatively healthy circulations.
The new weekly Chronicle is due to launch on 27 September, and is being redesigned with the help of Peter Sands, director of Press Association Training.