Bradford’s T&A getting more website traffic than Leeds’ YEP. Why?

It shouldn’t go unremarked: for the first time since newspaper executives came up with the bright idea of giving their content away for free, Bradford’s local daily, the Telegraph and Argus, is getting more people visiting its website every day than Leeds’ Yorkshire Evening Post.

With the sale of actual newspapers in terminal decline (see below), finding a way to make money out of online readers is the holy grail for regional publishers. Whether it’s illusory or not, step one is to get loads of readers.

So the figures released last week by the Audit Bureau of Circulation showing an actual FALL in online readership of the YEP will have made for uncomfortable reading down on Whitehall Rd.

papersonline2half2016

Your guess is as good as mine as to why this is happening at the YEP.

tandasurveyIt can’t be those surveys that stop you from reading the full article unless you tell them that you’ve never thought of buying a BMW and why not. They’re a total wind-up, but they’re not particular to the YEP and seem to pop up on every regional paper’s site.

It can’t be the erratic way the pages are laid out and load: you know, that thing when you’re congratulating yourself that you’ve managed to avoid triggering the two ads for the ‘i’ newspaper app that sandwich a single paragraph in the story you’re struggling to get through … and then you end up on the holiday booking page of Southall Travel anyway.

It’s not that. Pretty much every local paper seems to be laid out online for the benefit of the advertiser rather than the reader.

yepadsIt can’t be the fault of the online design gurus back at Johnston Press headquarters either. While they’ve quite clearly never tried to read one of the group’s papers on a mobile, it’s still a puzzler why one of their titles (the Sheffield Star) should have done so much better over the past couple of years than another (the YEP) using the same design template (see the table above).

It can’t be the content, can it? As a city, Leeds delivers reporters’ staples – football, murder and outrage – just as well as Sheffield (better in the case of football, the jury’s out on murder), and all three get full coverage in the YEP. And while it probably hasn’t got the resources to match the Manchester Evening News, the YEP’s political coverage is generally fuller, more feisty and less supine (to the powers that be) than it was a year ago when the current editor took over.

So, what is it that’s holding the YEP back online? Anyone know?

Print partner?

As for the “terminal decline” of print sales mentioned above, they’re pretty much in line with what we projected two and a half years ago: by the time we’re all dancing in the street waving our EU flags to celebrate the opening of Leeds as the European Capital of Culture in 2023, it’s likely that one of the bid’s current “print partners”, the YEP, won’t be a print paper any more.

Here are last week’s print sales figures. Honourable mention for the YEP’s sister paper, the Yorkshire Post, which recorded the lowest fall in paid-for circulation of any regional daily in the UK.

papersales2half16

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4 Responses to Bradford’s T&A getting more website traffic than Leeds’ YEP. Why?

  1. Gareth says:

    1. Most articles are copy and paste efforts from corporate press releases with little critique, insight or analysis.
    2. News and ‘exclusives’ are often reported days after other online sources
    3. There is much competition online from Leeds-list.com, thebusinessdesk etc for much better coverage on better designed websites.
    4. The mobile website is infuriating

    • Cheers for the comment. Marty McFly beat me to it in responding (below), and I pretty much agree with everything he says. Specifically, though, I think the YEP only faces competition from a lifestyle magazine like Leeds List when you’re talking about … erm … lifestyle stuff, which is a small part of the YEP offer and all that Leeds List does. I like the breadth of coverage of the Business Desk, but I’m struggling to think of any scoops/exclusives it’s had in recent times (or indeed any “critique, insight or analysis” behind the stories). At least we can agree that the website is infuriating.

  2. Marty McFly says:

    Sorry, but the previous comment simply isn’t true (maddeningly clunky website aside).
    Yes, a lot of press releases are used to fill out the YEP, but that really is inevitable when you combine increased pagination with a policy of systematically reshuffling, eroding and decimating editorial staffing over the past 15 years or so.
    Quite simply there aren’t enough people there to fill a paper with quality journalism in the space of a reasonable working day and that’s going to have an impact on overall standards front page to back and, as a consequence, online.
    That aside, it’s a fact that the staff who are left are still the most professional, well-trained journalists operating in the city at the moment and that the YEP is still the first to almost every major and breaking news story in Leeds day in, day out.
    Other news outlets still follow up on what’s in the YEP far more often than the reverse and they remain the yardstick for what counts as news in Leeds and what doesn’t.
    They’re also the only ones who routinely attend court cases and council meetings and have direct relationships with key figures at every major, and most minor, sports clubs in the region.
    Whilst there’s certainly more places to get your news and more dedicated, specialist blogs and hyperlocal sites now (which could account for some of this slight and probably temporary dip in web traffic) it’s not fair or accurate to say that those sites break stories first or better or that they provide any realistic competition as a genuine,
    reliable and professional news source.
    No disrespect at all to this site (and I’m sure LC would agree) but blogging isn’t the same as reporting and shouldn’t be seen as such.
    In my opinion any drop in online readership is mostly due to a lack of investment and dedicated resource put into digital content and driving web traffic at the YEP, something which I believe has been addressed relatively recently.
    It’s strange that it’s taken this long and there’s no doubt, for now at least, that the YEP has been somewhat left behind other regional dailies as a result.
    The real trick, of course, remains in finding a way of making web traffic pay the bills. Which begs the question was digital the right horse to back in the first place, but that’s another story altogether.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I agree with all of that, Marty McFly. Despite the fact that it’s been badly managed and woefully under-resourced (or so it seems from the outside), the YP/YEP newsroom is still the only serious news-gathering operation in Leeds. My fingers are firmly crossed that they’ll get extra staff with the new BBC local reporters scheme.

      The blogs/hyperlocal thing is massively overblown, I think. It’s only in niche areas where it represents competition to a city paper like the YEP. Hence, if I want to find out the news in West Leeds, say, I’ll look at the West Leeds Dispatch before the YEP as it’s faster and more comprehensive. If I want a list of hip restaurants to go to, I may look at LeedsList or TripAdvisor. And I think there was a time when people (not many of them, mind) used to come to this site for coverage of council stuff.

      But decent city-wide reporting from a blog? Not sure it’s happened anywhere or ever will.

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