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