London proves tough for weekly newspapers

Poor individual sales figures for many local, weekly newspapers in the second half of 2007 took the shine off an improved ABC performance for the weekly sector overall.

Despite 14 weeklies suffering year-on-year sales declines of more than 10 per cent, overall sales in the sector were down 1.6 per cent.

London, a difficult area for local papers in recent years, again saw six papers return year-on-year losses of more than 10 per cent, and there was a 4.38 per cent circulation dip across the city’s 22 weeklies overall.

The Trinity Mirror-owned Uxbridge Gazette lost 13.5 per cent of its sales year on year, and was down to an average of 14,620 compared with 16,202 in the last set of ABC figures in June 2007.

Editor-in-chief Adrian Seal said that these were ‘challenging times’for many in the capital and that innovation was the key to survival.

He said: ‘I think it’s a very difficult market, and if you look at the general trend of London titles everyone’s suffering a similar fate. The figures have actually have been a lot more solid for the start of the year than they were last year, but if you look across the board there’s a lot of people who have had some significant decreases.’

‘All the London papers have print and digital strategies that sit side by side… and we’re constantly looking to develop and improve that, and make things more interactive,’Seal added.

Archant’s London titles were celebrating some impressive figures: the Hornsey Journal series had a rise of 5.1 per cent to 5,877, the St John’s Wood and Maida Vale Express, sister title of the Hampstead and Highgate Express (12.9 per cent down year on year to 9,616), saw a 21.6 per cent rise to an average circulation of 433 copies. The Hackney Gazette and East London Advertiser saw rises of 1.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.

In Berkshire, The Reading Chronicle, which was bought from Trinity Mirror by Dunfermline Press Group last year, lost more than a fifth of its sale year on year, 21.7 per cent, with an average circulation of 11,056 – down from 14,113 in the last six months of 2006.

Meanwhile, The Oxford Times, which this week ditches its broadsheet format to go tabloid, had a 10.1 per cent dip year on year with sales of 22,793.

In West Yorkshire, the Johnston Press-owned Wakefield Express headed off a challenge from the Wakefield Guardian, which started last April and is not ABC-accredited, with a year-on-year 0.8 per cent rise to 32,642. Its sister title, the Hemsworth and South Elmsall Express, saw a 15.6 per cent rise to 6,453.

In Scotland, the Johnston Press-owned Carrick Gazette lost 12.2 per cent of its sale in the last half of 2007, down to 2,893, while another Johnston title, the East Lothian News, saw an increase of 12.4 year on year to 4,726.

The sales figure for Newsquest‘s Abergavenny Free Press in Wales slipped 18.4 per cent to 1,420 in a difficult period for Welsh weeklies: only two put on sales in the second half of 2007 while four posted losses of more than 12 per cent.

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