Reach to end Manchester free newspapers including free MEN copies

Reach to end free newspapers in Manchester including making MEN paid-only

Manchester free newspapers: Manchester Evening News

Reach is ending the free Manchester Weekly News and free copies of the Manchester Evening News as newsprint costs face “exceptional inflationary pressures” but the publisher’s digital scale grows.

The publisher said it had previously “flooded” the market in print in Manchester to make sure advertisers reached as many people as possible, but that its huge online presence no longer means this is necessary.

The final two editions of the Manchester Weekly News, which cover Salford and Trafford, will end in mid-August, as will free copies of the MEN – 43% of its current circulation.

Manchester Weekly News launched in 2015 with eight editions delivered to 265,000 homes in place of Reach’s existing free titles in the Greater Manchester area. At the time it was claimed to be Britain’s biggest free weekly newspaper.

There will be no job losses as a result of the closures “but they will help significantly reduce costs in the face of the exceptional inflationary pressures impacting print” according to Reach marketplace publisher in the North of England, and MEN editor-in-chief, Darren Thwaites.

Thwaites, who joined the MEN as editor in 2018 before changing roles last month, told staff in an email on Monday: “For many years we’ve flooded Manchester with free newspapers to ensure advertisers were able to reach lots of customers – but we can now offer smarter digital solutions at greater scale, which means we no longer need to do so.”

Thwaites added: “Advertisers will continue to have varied options in print (daily, Sunday and weeklies) but the overwhelming majority of ad spend will be served online, in line with customer demand. That’s thanks to a combination of our massive digital scale and more effective advertising solutions enabled by our customer value strategy.

“It’s a dramatic change in the shape of the business in just a few years and it would not have been possible but for our growth as a digital publisher. We’re leaving behind a declining, high-cost market and pouring our energies into the fastest growth area of the business.

“Manchester became the first traditional regional media centre to achieve majority digital revenues last year – but this truly turns the dial on our transformation.”

The MEN is the UK’s largest regional brand online and has made its way in recent months into the top ten of all UK news brands – the only regional title to do so. In June it reached 15.6 million people, just behind Reach national stablemate Daily Express on 16.3 million according to Ipsos iris data. It was also the 19th most engaged-with news brand in June, with a total of 94.5 million minutes spent.

Thwaites said the MEN is generating more than 2.3 million extra page views per day in 2022 compared to 2018, and that it hit a record 146 million page views in July.

Meanwhile in print, the MEN had a total circulation of 20,993 in the second half of 2021 (the latest ABC figures available), 43% of which came from the distribution of free copies. The total saw a year-on-year rise of 25%, making the MEN the only UK regional daily to buck the downwards trend as it restarted giving out the free copies to businesses that it had stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Between July and December last year, 46% (9,709) of the MEN’s circulation came from newsstand sales while 11% came from paid subscriptions.

Meanwhile the Manchester Weekly News had an average free print distribution of 123,822 in 2021 down from 251,371 at launch in 2015.

Publishers across the industry are currently battling pressures arising from drastically increasing newsprint costs.

In its half-year results last week, Reach said its newsprint costs had leapt 54% from £25.2m in the first half of 2021 to £38.8m for the same period in 2022.

And on Monday rival regional publisher National World said its printing and paper costs had risen by £300,000 year-on-year from £6.1m in the first half of 2021 to £6.4m in H1 2022.

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Picture: Reach

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Comments

2 thoughts on “Reach to end free newspapers in Manchester including making MEN paid-only”

  1. If online regional brands are defined by their respective affiliated (if any) print publications, surely the websites of the London Evening Standard and the multi-regional Metro should be near the top of the chart.

  2. Ever increasing newsprint costs must be making the main regional publishers look closely at the viability of producing once high selling dailies now in perpetual freefall,Newsquests abysmal Eastern Daily Press coming straight to mind
    A daily diet of rehashed old news, Facebook lifts and banal non news listicles is the norm where once there was professionally written unique and relevant local community news
    Sad to say the online platforms of this once proud title are even worse having become a PR outlet for local councils,take aways and estate agents

    Rising prices ending painful decline might well be a blessing in disguise

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