Regionals ditch bulks to increase appeal to advertisers

LONDON - Regional newspapers have taken steps to strip out bulk sales in a bid to lure advertisers to the medium.

More than 75% of regional titles have stripped out bulk sales entirely, according to ABC figures covering the January to June period.

Actively purchased sales now account for 99% of paid-for regional titles. Consistently strong performers among the dailies over recent years include the Dorset Evening Echo, West Lancashire Evening Gazette and Guernsey Evening Press & Star.

Sales of weekly regional titles were on the increase with over 50% of titles showing sales increases. However, sales of daily regional titles fell, with the Newspaper Society citing the Iraq war as a reason for declines.

Martyn Gates, ABC's director of newspapers and consumer magazines, said: "This strong ABC performance allows publishers to demonstrate to advertisers and agency buyers the importance of the regional newspaper industry, and their commitment to deliver transparent and independent verification."

According to figures published by Target Group Index, readership of regional and local newspapers is growing, with 84.5% of the UK population or 39.9m adults now reading a local paper, representing a year-on-year increase of 1.8%.

Kevin Beatty, managing director of Northcliffe Newspapers Group and chairman of the Newspaper Society's marketing committee, said: "Major new advertisers are coming into the medium, attracted by its growing readership, trusted environment and effectiveness. The fact that nearly half of all regional titles are building sales year-on-year -- while other media are fighting to retain share -- is testimony to the relevance and resilience of the regional press."

Among the weeklies, the Esher News & Mail and Derry News were the highest circulation growers. Key successes among the larger weekly titles featured the Mansfield Chad, Doncaster Free Press, Derry Journal, Barnsley Chronicle, Wakefield Express and the Derbyshire Times. The Kentish Express is a consistently strong performer, posting its 10th consecutive ABC increase for the Jan-June period.

Local news was also recently voted the most popular newspaper topic out of a list of 27 topics which included UK/British news, European news and sport.

Paul Davidson, chairman and chief executive of Newsquest Media Group, said: "Newsquest had some strong gains in base sale and moved significantly towards the full elimination of bulk sales."

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