Launching a morning edition of the Manchester Evening News has boosted the paper’s circulation by more than five per cent.
This is the verdict of managers based on sales so far of the new early edition of the MEN which launched on 1 November.
In the last regional press circulation audit for the six months to June, the MEN was down 6.4 per cent year-onyear to 148,094. The paper has recorded successive ABC declines since June 2000 when it was selling 176,051.
Managing director David Benjamin said the five per cent increase was on actively-purchased newsagent sales.
He said: “While it is pleasing to see a growing circulation, supporting our thinking that inconsistent delivery to retailers affects copy sales, it is far too early to assume any long-term established trend.
“Although the full marketing campaign does not begin until January, there was a lot of noise surrounding the launch. We have committed to produce the early edition until we repress in 2006 and we will monitor closely the readership habits to determine whether the early edition will continue thereafter.
“The true impact of the early edition will not be known until next year. If we are able to maintain this trend we will be in a strong position to manage the actively purchased circulation in a manner that suits the long-term interests of the business.”
The early edition was brought in despite resistance from staff who came within days of going on strike before the launch. They were concerned about the extra weekend and evening shifts needed to produce a morning paper.
According to management, the edition has been launched to ensure distribution of the paper is not disrupted while printing presses are renewed.
The 30,000 first editions are being printed overnight on the Trinity Mirror presses at Oldham.
MEN journalists abandoned a planned strike after management threatened to drop a package of compromises.
These include a “refreshment” programme whereby 12 staff are brought in to work the new shifts; dinner allowances of £15 for late working; and a pledge to fill vacancies caused by voluntary leavers within two months.
Editor Paul Horrocks said: “Sales growth is a challenge throughout the newspaper business, so it’s great to see an increase attributed to an extra edition, rather than a promotional device.
“We have to be cautious and make a more rounded judgement next year, but it’s a good base to build on.”
In a statement, the paper’s NUJ chapel said: “Until the refreshment programme is completed existing staff are working large numbers of unsocial shifts which are extremely disruptive to their social lives.
“It is disappointing to see that the statement from David Benjamin fails to include any appreciation of that point. A thank you would have been nice”
By Dominic Ponsford