Today the last edition of the Liverpool Daily Post after 158 years – it’s a very sad day for regional journalism.
The Daily Post, a pioneering newspaper that challenged the decision makers of the city and Merseyside, was my first newspaper where I worked for a while on the subs’ bench for the business desk. Since then I have worked on a number of regional newspapers as well as a spell on Fleet Street.
Back then we thought newspapers would last forever but even by the 1980s, we could see circulations were declining and that strong regional journalism was at risk. And then the internet came along and newspaper management was left scratching their heads about how they should respond.
Indeed, many simply ignored the world wide web and were unable to accept that the internet was one of those disruptive technologies which would impact on every industry including newspapers.
The slow, predictable decline of the UK’s regional newspaper is continuing unabated.
For the 257 regional and local papers that reported stats for the first six months of this year, there was a total year-on-year decline in circulation from 7.32 million to 7.1 million – a drop of three per cent. Very few publications had anything very positive to report when to print figures:
- 15 regionals saw a fall in circulation in excess of 20 per cent.
- 61 suffered a decline of at least 10 per cent.
- 40 saw a rise in circulation, but only four of those added more than 10 per cent.
It’s not a great picture, but not a terrible one either. Industry-wide declines of three per cent year-on-year seem sustainable for a while yet, even if some regionals are doing far worse than others. The transition from print to multiple digital screens is not an overnight phenomenon.
Among the top five dailies – total circulation dropped more than 40,000 years on year or 10 per cent of the total.
Looking at the sector from the outside – although I speak to journalists regularly – the future does not look good. Management still continues to make swinging job cuts, newsrooms are understaffed and under-resourced.
There has always been a tradition of gallows humour in the newsroom. Even in my day when I think the regional press was still reasonably strong – the hacks would hark back to the good old days of boozy lunches, generous expenses and the opportunity to take the time to investigate and write really good news stories which impacted on peoples’ life.
It’s a sad day for the Post – but I do not think this will be the last obituary written for the regional Press.