A seismic shift in the UK media landscape

While print titles are seeing their circulations shrink at sometimes alarming rates, local blogs and websites are springing up to fill the gaps. Suzy Bashford reports.

Thebusinessdesk.com's editorial team
Thebusinessdesk.com's editorial team

WESSEX - Local glossy magazines thrive as newspapers decline

- Rising stars

In this region, the local glossies are especially well received by readers and PROs. These titles, such as Dorset Life magazine, cover lifestyle topics including conservation and nature, and print profiles of famous people who live in the counties, such as actor Martin Clunes. The Wessex Muse is a popular, free, upmarket lifestyle title for the whole region that covers topics such as food, culture, art and creativity and aims to 'inspire and uplift' its readers, of which there are more than 30,000. The only newspaper that was not in decline last year was the Journal Havant and Waterlooville, where the number of readers remained static.

Swanageview - swanageview.blogspot.com - launched in 2004 to fill a gap in the market, provide local, timely news and raise issues that affect the community. It is also used to promote events. Recent hot topics include the plan to shake up the school system in the area and the council's plan to sell the caravan park.

- In the doldrums

The worst-performing titles in the region were Hampshire's Basingstoke Extra (where circulation was down by 31.9 per cent), the Basingstoke Midweek Gazette and Devon's The Extra (with a 20 per cent decline in the number of readers).

Statistics source: Newspaper circulation percentage changes refer to the difference between the year to December 2009 and the year to December 2008 - from the Audit Bureau of Circulations Regional Publications report December 2009

YORKSHIRE AND LINCOLNSHIRE - Newspapers embrace the web to tackle drops in circulation

- Rising stars

Circulation figures for the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post dropped (by 5.7 per cent and 8.7 per cent respectively), but both titles are making more use of their websites to include new types of content and this is seen as a good target for video coverage by local PR agencies.

Former Yorkshire Post business editor David Parkin has set up a news service for breaking stories - TheBusinessDesk.com. It has proved so popular it has expanded out of Yorkshire into Manchester and the West Midlands. It has more than 280,000 visits per month.

Enchante Leeds magazine has also launched in the region recently and its coverage of social issues, fashion, music, food, travel and health has so far been well received.

Online, mylifeinleeds.co.uk is an influential Leeds-based travel blog, and the Yorkshire Post website at yorkshirepost.co.uk includes blogs from local people.

- In the doldrums

Print titles have suffered some significant drops in circulation.

The worst affected include North Yorkshire's Herald (-17 per cent), East Yorkshire's Beverley Advertiser (-21.1 per cent), South Yorkshire's Doncaster Advertiser (-20.9 per cent), West Yorkshire's Aire, Wharfe and Worth Valley Target (-40 per cent) and Lincolnshire's East Coast Target (-31.3 per cent).

HOME COUNTIES SOUTH - newspapers for free

- Rising stars

Kent has been a rare pocket of growth in the past year, with a handful of well-performing newspapers such as the Thanet Times, the Dover Express, the East Kent Gazette and the Gravesend Reporter. However, some figures are slightly misleading. The Thanet Times' growth of 151.3 per cent, for example, reflects a move from paid-for to free. Nevertheless, moves like this boost readership significantly.

The Argus in Brighton runs a well-read blog - at theargus.co.uk/blogs - written by members of the public including two PROs. Brighton has a thriving blogging scene, with bloggers apparently meeting up often, keeping each other informed about approaches from PROs.

- In the doldrums

The Dartford & Swanley Times, where circulation is down 62.3 per cent, and the Bromley Times, where it fell 53.1 per cent.

MIDLANDS REGION - Bucks the trend as many newspapers grow

- Rising stars

The Shrewsbury Chronicle in Shropshire posted a whopping 161.3 per cent growth in its ABC circulation. However, as is often the case with sharp increases in circulation figures, on closer inspection the growth coincided with a move from paid-for to free distribution. However, PROs say the change has led to a resurgence in interest in the title.

The region has more titles that are growing than any other, including the Stevenage Advertiser (up 2.8 per cent during 2009), the Letchworth GC & Baldock Comet (3.5 per cent), the Coalville Mail (7.6 per cent), the Nottingham & Long Eaton Topper (0.9 per cent) and the Uttoxeter Post & Times (0.3 per cent).

Online, the artistic and creative community website Created in Birmingham, which won a Blog Award in 2008, is popular, as is Hertfordshire-based Paramedic Blogger.

- In the doldrums

While there is more growth in this region than in many others, no titles grew in the Derbyshire area. The two that struggled most were Hertfordshire's Welwyn and Hatfield Review (down 51.7 per cent) and Warwickshire's Courier (down 32.8 per cent). Other titles, including the Birmingham Post, are no longer dailies, publishing only once a week on paper but supported by daily email news bulletins.

NORTH EAST - Online offshoots of papers offer hyper-local news

- Rising stars

Both The Journal in Northumberland and the Evening Gazette in Teesside have seen circulation dips (-8.3 per cent and -5.9 per cent), but their newly revamped, hyper-local online offerings - at journallive.co.uk and gazettelive.co.uk - are proving popular.

They allow readers to land on home pages relevant to their postcodes, and attract about 350,000 page impressions a month and 180,000 unique users. PROs report that the microsites are good places for messages relevant only to a small geographical area.

Also, Business Quarter is considered a good quality business publication.

- In the doldrums

The Hartlepool Star has experienced one of the biggest drops in readership in the area over the past year (-32.4 per cent). However, local PR firms report that Metro has also struggled and dropped in quality since it lost its local reporters last year. The general consensus, too, is that the BBC North East local news offering has 'lost its way, taking a negative approach to many positive regional developments to create controversy', according to one local PRO.

NORTH WEST - vibrant blogging scene

- Rising stars

Newspapers that have attracted more readers or held their own over the past year are Runcorn & Widnes World (up 85.1 per cent), the Wigan Reporter (0.8 per cent) and the Wirral News (45.9 per cent).

Manchester has a vibrant blogging scene. Lost in Manchester (doorsintothepast.blogspot.com) was the Best City and Neighbourhood Blog in the recent Manchester Blog Awards, closely followed by The Manchester Zedders (themanchesterzedders.wordpress.com). Cheshire-based PRO Kate Cowan's blog - at creativeboom.co.uk - aims to support the region's creative industries.

- In the doldrums

There was no growth in readership at any of the Greater Manchester print titles. In particular the Bolton Journal was down 29.9 per cent and the Maghull & Aintree Star by 97.9 per cent. Elsewhere the steepest drops were at the Warrington Midweek (-28.3 per cent) and The Blackburn, Darwen and Hyndburn Citizen (-31.1 per cent).

NORTHERN IRELAND - Bouyant radio market

- Rising stars

The newspaper with the highest circulation is the Belfast Telegraph, which reaches about 68,025 people. While circulation has dipped by 4.5 per cent over the past year, its digital TV offering, focusing on business stories, is proving popular with PROs. Radio remains key, with BBC Radio Ulster, Downtown Radio and Cool FM good PRO targets. Political blog sluggerotoole.com continues to hold sway in Ireland.

- In the doldrums

There are more than 60 weekly regional newspapers in Northern Ireland and circulation has dropped at the vast majority over the past 12 months. The Community Telegraph in south Belfast struggled the most, with circulation falling by 27.4 per cent.

However, it is the regional media (outside Belfast) that have faced the biggest challenge. Local PR firms have seen a clear shift over the past year: to secure editorial coverage they are having to take part in more 'value added' activities, such as promotions and advertising.

SCOTLAND - Political bloggers tap into sense of nationalism

- Rising stars

The Sunday Herald covers all of Scotland, although it has a west coast bias. It is the only paper with such wide coverage that has increased its circulation (but by only 1.29 per cent) over the past year.

Smaller newspapers that have achieved good growth are the Ellon Times and Inverurie Herald (78.6 per cent) and the Mearns Leader and Kincardinshire Observer (18.8 per cent).

Political blogs are particularly popular, perhaps because of Scotland's fierce sense of independence in some parts. Rolled-up Trousers (osamasaeed.org), SNP candidate Osama Saeed's blog, is one of the best read. Business7's new podcast and blog series - at blogs.business7.co.uk - is said to be a good PRO target.

- In the doldrums

All the main Scottish newspapers have been restructured in the past year. The newsrooms of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, for example, have now merged. The Scotsman saw a drop in circulation of 7.04 per cent and the equivalent figure for the Herald was 7.38 per cent. The biggest fall in circulation for a regional newspaper was at The Inverclyde Extra, which dropped 61.9 per cent. In general, PROs report more dependence on advertising generally. Some glossy lifestyle titles demand an investment in advertising before they will consider running editorial.

EAST ANGLIA - A few local papers prosper at the expense of others

- Rising stars

The Cambridge News & Crier, the Basildon and Wickford Recorder and the Saffron Walden Weekly News all posted good growth throughout 2009 in the ABCs (41.6 per cent, 18.5 per cent and 16.8 per cent respectively). Although The East Anglian Daily Times has reported a decline (-5 per cent), PROs say it has a good mix of community and business news and is genuinely valued by those in the area. The paper also publishes a range of blogs. It says the most popular ones cover entertainment and football. Barnesy's Blog Party and Unmissable get the highest traffic. Visit thebestof.co.uk/local/cambridge/blog.

The Rubbish Diet Suffolk - therubbishdiet.blogspot.com - started out as housewife Karen Cannard's bid to organise a 'zero waste' week in Bury St Edmunds in 2008 but has since become recognised as a site that champions the importance of waste reduction. She is now also running thesuffolkdiet.blogspot.com to promote local produce.

- In the doldrums

The significant growth of the Basildon and Wickford Recorder and the Saffron Walden Weekly News may have contributed to the decline of other newspapers in Essex.

Circulation fell at both the Brentwood & Billericay Weekly News (-36.3 per cent) and the Havering Post (-46.3 per cent).

WEST OF ENGLAND Glossy mags still reign

- Rising stars

Print is still delivering some successes in this region. Northcliffe's SouthWestBusiness magazine, launched last March, has achieved a solid start, and The Bristol Observer and the Bridgwater Times in Somerset- both newspapers - have registered circulation growth. Local glossy magazines are also popular reads, especially with ABC1 consumers. They include Clifton Life, Bath Life and Devon Life.

New websites Bristol24-7 - bristol247.com - and thisisbristol.co.uk have risen dramatically in popularity. At southwestbusiness.co.uk/editorsblog, Michael Ribbeck, editor of SouthWestBusiness magazine, writes about the issues and events that affect businesses across the region

- In the doldrums

The Gloucestershire Independent has had a troubled time over the past year, with circulation dropping by 59.8 per cent, but none of the regional newspapers in Gloucestershire grew last year. In Wiltshire, the Avon Advertiser fared even worse, down 64 per cent.

THAMES & CHILTERN Some dismal drops in circulations

- Rising stars

A few titles have enjoyed modest growth. They include the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser (2.8 per cent), the Stevenage Advertiser (2.8 per cent) and the Letchworth GC & Baldock Comet (3.5 per cent). Fledging online TV channel Bucks TV has been well received, plugging a gap in the local TV market. Chilternvoice.co.uk is a popular website for Chesham and the surrounding areas.

- In the doldrums

A number of dismal drops in circulation have been reported in this county. Bedfordshire on Sunday dropped 43.5 per cent, Leighton Buzzard News by 51.4 per cent, Welwyn & Hatfield Review by 51.7 per cent and the Oxford Star by 39.2 per cent.

WALES - Blogosphere in rude health compared with newspapers

- Rising stars

The only title that did not suffer a drop in circulation in the past year was the Bangor & Anglesey Mail, which registered static circulation. Although the South Wales Evening Post declined by 5.3 per cent, it is still considered one of the strongest newspapers in the region and its importance to the community is not slipping.

Swansea Bay Business Life magazine, which was bought last year by the Evening Post and given a makeover, has also been well received.

The Welsh blogosphere is in much better health than the print world. Like Scotland, it benefits from a strong sense of Celtic nationalism. BBC Wales journalist Betsan Powys is seen as particularly influential - bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/betsanpowys.

- In the doldrums

Welsh newspapers that suffered particularly severe drops in circulation were the Swansea Herald and the Campaign Caerphilly, Ystrad Mynach & Bargoed. Both plummeted by 26 per cent.

The newspaper with the highest circulation in Wales, the Echo Extra, which now reaches 56,255, dropped by a hefty 18.1 per cent.

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