Is the City wrong about the regional press?

Britain’s three largest regional newspaper publishers have come out fighting after their share prices have taken a pounding in recent months.

Daily Mail and General Trust, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press have all explained why the City is wrong to write off the regional press.

DMGT finance director Peter Williams told Press Gazette: ‘Last week, we invoiced our highest-ever volume of property advertising for our newspapers – and that’s in print. That doesn’t sound to me like a downturn.”

Johnston chief executive Tim Bowdler said: ‘ These over-blown doomsters are completely off the mark. If you work in London and live in the Barbican you are not necessarily too clued up about how local communities work and how they get their local news and information.

‘Yes, our paid-for circulations are falling, and that is particularly true with daily newspapers. That said, we are incredibly active in terms of launching complementary publications in print which are reaching areas that we have not necessarily reached before.”

And in a rare interview, Trinity Mirror director of regionals Georgina Harvey said: ‘I am feeling very bullish about the future. We believe that the advertising decline is overwhelmingly cyclical.

‘Also, we are seeing early signs of stability returning to the ad market and you can see that evidence from results from all the regional newspaper players.”

But one one prominent City analyst – who spoke candidly to Press Gazette on condition of anonymity – said: ‘Right or wrong, the City has taken the view that on a five or 10-year view the regional industry isn’t going to grow. If it isn’t going to grow then natural inflation in the cost base will see profits being squeezed downwards.”

For the full special report, see Press Gazette magazine this week

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