Overall circulation of the UK’s regional evening papers dropped by 5.6 per cent year-on-year from 2.95 million to 2.78 million in the first six months of this year.
The regional dailies which describe themselves as mornings fared slightly better – down four per cent.
Four regional evening papers grew their circulation year-on-year, compared to three growers six months ago. The risers were: the Scunthorpe Telegraph (up 3.5 per cent), the Swindon Advertiser (up 2.4 per cent), the Oxford Mail (up 1.3 per cent) and the Guernsey Press & Star (up 1.1 per cent).
The Aberdeen Press & Journal maintains its position as the top seller in the morning sector down 2.5 per cent to 81,872 followed by the Dundee Courier on 74,932 while among the evenings the Express and Star has held on to its long-standing position as top regional seller, despite dropping 4.2 per cent to 143,522 followed by the Liverpool Echo down 7 per cent to 109,756.
A 21 per cent sales dip at the Reading Evening Post to 13,664 can be attributed to the paper’s decision to strip out 10 per cent of its bulk sales, from 86 per cent to 96 per cent. The Post’s dip may also have been fuelled by the roll-out of its part free, part paid strategy.
On top of home delivering 80,000 free copies on a Wednesday the Post now gives away 1,600 each day to companies, business parks and schools bringing total paid for and free distribution to 15,600 a day.
The Irish News was knocked off the top spot in the morning sector for circulation growth after two consecutive periods by the Birmingham Post.
The Post was the only morning title to have put on sales up 1.1 per cent to 12,685 though the increase is partially accounted for by an increase in free give-away copies. In the previous six month period 77.6 per cent of copies were actively purchased, but in the first six months of this year 75.5 per cent were actively purchased.
Former editorial director of Trinity Mirror Southern Marc Reeves took over from Fiona Alexander as editor in March 2007. Since then he has launched a series of high end business and lifestyle supplements and there was a redesign in April which included more signposting and ‘access points”.
Reeves said: ‘We’ve packed a lot into this period, and it’s therefore very heartening to see positive results come through in the ABC figures. However, the market for daily regional newspapers remains very competitive, and the next big challenge for us is to move all the strengths of the Post very firmly on to digital platforms so the title can serve the needs of new generations of readers.”
Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson may be breathing a sigh of relief at his paper’s relatively small 5.98 per cent dip after three and a half years of double figure declines. Fortunes may be finally turning around follow a £1m ‘back to basics’relaunch in October 2005 which was intended to connect with the city’s ethnic population.
A year ago the paper was down 17.5 per cent – so the latest figure could be interpreted as a postive swing of 11 per cent.
Dyson said: ‘We are very pleased to see increased signs of stability in a rapidly changing marketplace.
‘This is the result of hard work by editorial, newspaper sales and marketing departments who have forward-planned some terrific sales opportunities throughout the period.
‘A mixture of detailed local editions, strong campaigning stances and up-to-date news and sports coverage has helped maintain the Birmingham Mail’s position as the number one local read in Birmingham and surrounding towns.’
Dyson said that the improving trend has continued in the first few weeks of the second half of 2007.
For a second time the Manchester Evening News’s part paid, part free strategy has resulted in a percentage dip in its 20s. The paper was down 24.2 per cent to 86,923 year-on-year. Combined free and paid-for circulation brings the title to nearly 180,000.
The Liverpool Post’s move to a part-paid, part-free strategy has resulted in a 10.5 per cent dip in sales to 15,980. A further 6,406 are given away each day.
The Northern Echo halted its slide by switching to a tabloid in February. The morning title had been losing readers at a rate of 6.9 per cent before the change but it was down just 2.2 per cent to 51,188.