Print sales of Yorkshire’s regional daily papers have continued their collapse, according to figures released last week by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
Nothing too remarkable: the Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) leads the latest slide with one of the biggest drops (16%) of all regional dailies in the country, with the Yorkshire Post (13%) not doing that much better.
What’s worse is that figures for our two Leeds papers are not quite what they seem.
Only 16,700 of the 23,000 copies recorded for the Yorkshire Post are paid for at the full rate, with 5,000 sold at a discount and a further 1,500 as multiple copy sales distributed at hotels and transport hubs.
Similarly, only 11,300 of the YEP’s recorded overall circulation figures of 15,192 are paid at the full rate, with 2,700 being given away for free and a further 1,100 sold at a discount.
Interesting to note the contribution to the overall figures made by the Yorkshire Post’s Saturday edition (always a decent read for the price), which averaged 46,292 sales a week in the first six months of this year, compared to 18,143 for the Monday to Friday edition.
Where is this inexorable decline heading?
Three years ago (2014) I projected the sales of our regional dailies through to 2023, based on the amount they’d been falling since 2011. It was an attempt to work out when the plug might be pulled.
I had a look at the projections today and they’re pretty close to reality, with most papers’ print circulation falling faster than projected and just one, the Sheffield Star, more slowly.
Here’s what I came up with in August 2014 for the first half of 2017, compared with where they actually are:
Which is a roundabout way of saying that by 2023, if not earlier, newspaper owners are going to have to finally confront the awkward truths about the viability of some of their print titles.
You can see the projections here. They’re grim.
Bradford’s T&A LOSES online audience
Still, digital is the answer. Apparently. “Digital will save us,” has been the cry from regional publishers. The theory goes that revenue generated by a rapidly expanding digital audience will, at some stage in some (as yet unfathomed) way, make up for the revenue lost by print.
So it’s a bit dispiriting to see the figures reflect what many readers have known intuitively for some time – that the publishing group that owns three of our local dailies, Johnston Press (JP), hasn’t really got its head round digital for local papers yet.
While rival regional publisher Trinity Mirror increased its daily average “unique browsers” by 99% year on year, Johnston Press appears stuck in the digital doldrums at just 12.3% growth.
Of most concern locally to JP will be the continuing sluggish online growth of the Yorkshire Post. At an average 41,000 unique browsers a day and growing at only 8% a year, it’s failing to keep up with the Grimsby Telegraph (for example) and doesn’t look like swelling its owners’ coffers any time soon.
Having said that, spare a thought for the two local papers owned by the Newsquest Group: Bradford’s T&A has actually LOST some of its online audience, and the York Press has seen such measly growth that it doesn’t really count as growth.
To paraphrase Wilde, one is a misfortune, but two looks like carelessness.