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Colossal decline of UK regional media since 2007 revealed

All news media combined went from taking 39% to a 6% slice of the advertising in 15 years.

By Dominic Ponsford

New research from Press Gazette has revealed the colossal extent of regional news media revenue decline in the UK since 2007.

In revenue terms the sector was about a quarter of the size in 2022 than it was in 2007, according to our analysis. When figures are adjusted for inflation the sector is around seven times smaller today than it was on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis.

Press Gazette looked at the UK’s three leading local news publishers: Reach, National World and Newsquest. Together these three giants dominate UK local news in print and online.

In 2022 the three companies had regional media revenue of around £590m and employed up to around 3,000 journalists (the figure for Reach is an estimate assuming just over half its 2,862 editorial staff worked on local titles). It should be noted that the current staff total is probably lower as major cutbacks were made across the industry in 2023.

We compared the 2022 figures with the total revenue and employment numbers for the nine companies in 2007 which would later be consolidated into Reach, National World and Newsquest.

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The number of journalists employed by the nine companies totalled around 9,000 in 2007 and their collective revenue was £2.4bn

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Midlands News Association, which was acquired by National World in late 2023, is not included in this analysis but its figures bear out the general trend.

In 2007 it employed around 250 journalists mainly covering Wolverhampton and Shropshire and the business turned over £67m. By 2022 turnover had dropped to £17m and according to Press Gazette estimates it employed around 50 journalists (assuming just over a quarter of its 226 staff were involved in editorial).

Where exact figures were available we have used them but in some cases we have estimated the number of journalists based on industry norms for the proportion of total headcount working in editorial.

Reach no longer breaks down its revenue by nationals and regionals so we have assumed that local media comprises 50% of revenue as this was the case in 2007 when it was called Trinity Mirror. Since then it has expanded both its national and regional media businesses extensively.

In the mid-2000s, then local press trade body the Newspaper Society reckoned local newspapers employed around 13,000 journalists. Our analysis suggests that figure is now likely around the 4,000 mark.

The decline of the UK regional press has been inversely proportional to the rise of US tech giants operating in the UK media market.

In 2007 news media advertising – magazines and newspapers combined – was worth £7.1bn in the UK, or 39% of the £17bn total UK ad spend (about £11bn in today’s money).

In 2022, all national, regional and magazine titles combined made around £2bn in advertising (print and online) out of the total £35bn UK ad spend - less than a fifth of what they were making in 2007. They’ve gone from taking 39% to a 6% slice of the pie.

By comparison, last year around £15bn of UK ad spend was spent with two US tech companies alone – Alphabet, which owns Google and Youtube, and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

While Facebook and Google have provided preferable solution to small and medium business advertisers, the likes of Rightmove, Indeed and Autotrader have taken the classified advertising which once underpinned most local news media revenue.

Note: Newsquest Media Group did not publish consolidated company accounts in 2007 so we have added up the editorial headcount and turnover of its main subsidiaries as per the table below to arrive at its 2007 total.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • COO
  • CFO
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  • Other C-Suite
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
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  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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