Move from bulk sales hits local newspapers

Regional newspaper publishers saw top-line circulation fall across

the industry as their titles continued to navigate a tricky period of

transition.



Publishers blamed continuing media fragmentation for a set of results

that saw all sectors record a drop in circulation year on year. However,

it is clear that a policy shift by three top regional newspaper groups

away from bulk sales is also affecting the top line.



Of the different sectors, Sundays and evening titles suffered the worst

losses. None of England's top 20 evening titles were able to record a

positive year-on-year result, with the Birmingham Evening Mail, which

dropped 6.41 per cent, the biggest sufferer in the top ten.

Foot-and-mouth and the resultant cancellation of local sporting events

may well have had an impact here, although the Carlisle News & Star was

able to turn thirst for news of the crisis into a 3.6 per cent

year-on-year increase.



The drive against bulk distribution, led by Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe

and Johnston Press, was evident in the morning sector, with several

titles, including the sector-lead, the West Midlands Express & Star,

eschewing bulks altogether.



"While the number of copies in the marketplace has decreased, a higher

proportion of regional newspapers are being actively purchased and 94.3

per cent are now being sold at full price," Cathy Richards, Zenith's

regional media group director, said. "We fully support the move to

reduce bulk sales and look forward to it continuing."



Bulks have also largely been stripped out of the figures for regional

mornings, although results for Scotland and Ireland balanced this out by

boosting the top line. The Scotsman, which is defined as a national

newspaper by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, turned in a 7.1 per cent

increase while the Irish News rose 0.14 per cent.



In England, however, the story was of managed decline. Norwich's

market-leading Eastern Daily Press recorded small decreases of 0.4 per

cent period on period and 1.8 per cent year on year, while The Yorkshire

Post rose by 3.2 per cent period on period but dipped by the same amount

year on year. Across West Yorkshire, Bradford's Telegraph & Argus posted

a record increase in its base sale, despite showing a top-line

decrease.



"There's a focus on clean, transparent sales," the Newspaper Society's

director of communications, Lynne Anderson, said. "That's the goal.

Publishers have found that sales teams are much more focused and less

distracted by trying to bulk up sales."



Weeklies once again proved the most buoyant regional sector, despite

posting its first year-on-year decline in more than five years. Small

increases for the sector leader, Essex Chronicle, and second-placed West

Briton could not prevent a 1.5 per cent overall decline in a sector

where price rises in response to increasing newsprint costs are also

thought to have impacted on sales.



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