ABCs point to upswing in the regional market

Regional newspapers appear to be benefitting from the clutter caused by an increasingly fragmented media market, according to the latest round of sales figures for the industry unveiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Regional newspapers appear to be benefitting from the clutter

caused by an increasingly fragmented media market, according to the

latest round of sales figures for the industry unveiled by the Audit

Bureau of Circulations.



In the healthiest returns the regionals have seen since 1992, overall

sales fell just 0.5 per cent during the second half of 1997, compared

with 1.5 per cent for July-December 1996.



The strongest performing sector was weekly regional newspapers, the only

area to record an increase in growth, of just under 1 per cent. Sixty

per cent of the titles in this field increased their circulation,

compared with half last year.



The top selling weekly was West Briton with an average sale of 50,391,

followed by the Essex Chronicle at 49,598. In terms of growth the most

dynamic newspapers were the Northallerton, Thirsk & Bedale Times with a

44 per cent increase year on year to 1,556, and the Merthyr Express, up

32.6 per cent to 18,427.



The ABC’s head of operations, Anthony Peacham, said: ’Some 237 weekly

titles showed circulation growth, with nine achieving double-figure

percentage increases.’



Morning newspapers have stemmed their decline from 2.2 per cent two

years ago to 0.4 per cent in the second half of 1997. The Aberdeen Press

& Journal topped the morning league with sales of 105,176, but the

Scotsman posted the largest rise in circulation, up 5.5 per cent year on

year to 81,330.



Nine of the 17 morning titles increased circulation.



Despite showing the largest decline in circulation growth with a fall of

2.6 per cent for the July to December period, Sunday titles have reduced

the rate at which sales are falling, which last year stood at 3.3 per

cent. Nearly two-thirds of evening titles registered an increase in

growth.



The Birmingham Evening Mail and the West Midlands Express & Star

dominate the sector, with circulations of 192,188 and 191,869

respectively.



Charles Ross, national development manager of the Newspaper Society,

commented: ’Everything looks set for continued solid growth for regional

press advertising. These figures prove that the regional press is far

from a medium set for rapid decline.’



The improved regional circulations can be set against a healthy

advertising revenue picture for sector. According to MMS, the regional

press increased its revenue by 12.2 per cent year on year to pounds 4.4

million in 1997.



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