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April 16, 2012

Ten dailies make switch to weekly in the space of a year

By Andrew Pugh

Today’s announcement that five Johnston Press daily newspapers are being relaunched as weeklies takes the tally of papers to make the switch over the last year to ten.

This morning Johnston revealed that the Scarborough Evening News, Halifax Courier, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Peterborough Evening Telegraph and Northants Evening Telegraph would all become weeklies in May.

In 2011 its regional newspaper rival Northcliffe Media – a subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust – led the way on weekly conversions. The first paper that made the move was the Torquay Herald Express in July, resulting in the loss of around half of the 30-strong editorial staff.

This was followed by the three other Northcliffe dailies: the Scunthorpe Telegraph a month later, the Exeter Express & Echo in September and the Lincolnshire Echo in October. All resulted in considerable cuts to editorial,

In February the first official ABC figures for those newspapers were released, showing that the Torquay Herald Express, which as a daily had an average daily circulation of 21,112 in the first half of 2011 (down 3.7 per cent on the previous year), sold an average of 30,637 as a weekly in the second half of the year.

The Lincolnshire Echo, which sold 17,151 in the first half of last year as a daily (down 7.6 per cent year on year) had a weekly circulation of 25,757, while the Exeter Express & Echo saw an average weekly figure of 24,318, compared with a daily circulation of 17,102 (down 5.3 per cent on the first half of 2010).

The Scunthorpe Telegraph had an average weekly circulation of 20,284 in the last six months of 2011. As a daily in the first half of the 2011 it sold an average of 16,084, down 7.2 per cent.

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Financial figures released in February showed the switches contributed to a 7 per cent drop in circulation revenue in the three months to 1 January 2012 for Northcliffe.

Here are the most recent ABC figures (and percentage change year on year) for July-December 2011 for the Johnston Press titles that are making the same move:

  • Scarborough Evening News : 10,637 ; -7.2%
  • Halifax Courier : 15,046 ; -8.0%
  • Northampton Chronicle & Echo : 15,913 ; -4.6%
  • Peterborough Evening Telegraph : 14,883 ; -4.0%
  • Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph – Kettering : 17,857 ; -6.3%

In January, Trinity Mirror followed Northcliffe’s lead when the Liverpool Daily Post became the fifth UK daily to go weekly over the course of the last 12 months. Its last ABC as a daily revealed it had an average daily circulation of just 7,652, down 13.7 per cent year on year.

It appears unlikely that today’s news from Johnston Press will be the last such announcement: excluding the Johnston papers affected by today’s announcement there are currently 18 daily newspapers in the UK that have circulation below 17,000.

They include Johnston titles the Wigan Evening Post, Shields Gazette and Doncaster Star.

In September the chief executive of another regional newspaper publisher, Iliffe News & Media’s David Fordham told Press Gazette he would consider converting its three daily newspapers – which includes the Burton Mail (ABC: 11,926) – to weeklies.

‘It is highly unlikely that during the next five to 10 years all regional dailies will convert to weekly publications,’he said. ‘However, it is highly probably some of them will. The daily titles most likely to consider revising publishing will be those with an average sale of around 20,000 copies or less.

‘Within Iliffe News and Media we currently publish three daily titles all with circulation below 20,000 copies or less. We have no immediate plans to convert any of these titles to a weekly format in the immediate future. However, it is highly likely that we will be forced into a review of our own future.”

Another Northcliffe title, the Bath Chronicle, went from daily to weekly in 2007. Its last daily circulation figure was 12,363, compared with a current weekly ABC figure of 15,934, though this was down 6.8 per cent year on year.

The Birminghan Post went from daily to weekly in 2009 after its sale had fallen below 10,000 a day and now has an average circulation of 10,125, down 15.2 per cent year on year.

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email

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