U-turn on merger for two Newsquest weeklies

Reader demand will see two weekly Newsquest titles that merged just three months ago return as separate titles next week.

The Ilkley Gazette and the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer merged in February amid declining sales on both titles.

The papers shared staff, offices and content and said it ‘seemed logical – in these difficult economic times – to finish the job and merge them completely”.

The move also saw both titles switch from broadsheet to tabloid format.

The decision to reverse the merger came after readers were asked to provide feedback on the changes, which included an in-paper survey and meetings with councillors, community groups, newsagents and readers.

Newsquest Yorkshire and North East regional managing director David Coates said: ‘We knew that introducing change, both in size format and in bringing our two Wharfedale titles together as the Gazette & Observer, was a risk and readers have made their feelings known to us.

‘The overwhelming majority like the change to compact format but most tell us they want their own newspaper back. And that’s exactly what we intend to do in bringing back the Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer.’

Malcolm Hoddy, who was appointed editor of the two newspapers in January, said: ‘There was such strength of feeling among readers about the old titles that we felt it was absolutely the right thing to do.

‘Weekly newspapers are all about their local community and we’re happy to prove that we’re willing to listen to what the readers are telling us.”

According to the most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Ilkley Gazette – incorporating the Ilkley Free Press – had an average weekly circulation of 4,765 during the first half of last year, a year-on-year drop of 9 per cent.

During the same period, the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer had a weekly circulation of 3,873 – a year-on-year drop of 11.5 per cent.

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