Tindle Newspapers has predicted that it is about halfway through the current recession and said today it would emerge from the economic downturn “with flags flying”.
At a group-wide meeting of managers in Kent this morning, veteran regional newspaper owner Sir Ray Tindle said his company had “survived the recession so far without significant damage” to titles, staff or the group’s financial reserves.
The Tindle Newspapers chairman addressed his management team on “continuing the successful fight against the effects of recession”. Today’s conference also included sessions on “managing in a crisis”, “online publishing” and “money-making ideas”.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Tindle Newspapers said: “The conference felt the press was probably halfway through this very severe downturn and that Tindle Newspapers had survived this recession remarkably well.
“It was unanimously agreed the Tindle Newspaper Group would survive the entire recession with flags flying.”
In January, Tindle invoked Winston Churchill’s famous “fight them on the beaches” speech from 1940 – when Britain stood alone against a Germany under Hitler which had occupied most of Europe – to describe the newspaper industry’s fight against the recession.
The group, which owns about 200 titles across England and Wales, announced a pay freeze for all 900 of its staff in March.
Tindle told Press Gazette at the time that the current recession was “the worst I have ever seen” but said he was confident advertising spend would come back to the regional press.
“Of course, we have to compete with the internet, but I recall when evening papers became the thing, everyone said that will be the end of the local, paid-for weekly,” he said.
“Then a few years later, free papers came in and everyone said the will be the end of the local, paid-for weekly.
“Then commercial radio came in. We all went to the government to protest. But I know the highest profit we have ever made, and the highest circulations we have ever had were in 2005, when all these competitors were going full blast.”
He added: “We will beat the internet the way we have beaten free papers, and local commercial radio. If you want to take a small bet with me, I bet 10p we will be here flourishing in 61 years.
“Local papers will cope in the future as they have in the past. My oldest local paper is 201 years old. Several are 150 years old, a lot more are 125 years old.
“I will lay that 10p that they will be there in a few years yet. I am very serious. I know local papers, and I know they will survive.”
Tindle began his newspaper group with the £300 demobilisation money given to soldiers at the end of the Second World War. He started with a weekly paper in Tooting, south London, with a circulation of 700.
Through launches and acquisitions the group has grown to its current total weekly circulation of about 1.4 million.
In 2007, Tindle made its biggest purchase – paying Trinity Mirror £18.75m for 27 weekly newspapers, including the South London Press, Yellow Advertiser series, Streatham Post, Mitcham Post, Bexley Mercury, Barnet Press, Enfield Advertiser and Enfield Gazette.