ABC FIGURES: Robust weeklies buck trend

Weekly newspapers were the healthiest players on the otherwise sickly regional scene, showing growth for the sixth consecutive ABC period.

Weekly newspapers were the healthiest players on the otherwise

sickly regional scene, showing growth for the sixth consecutive ABC


According to the figures, a total of 59 per cent of weeklies increased

circulation in the latest period, and the sector as a whole - which is

also the largest, with 396 eligible ABC titles - showed a growth of 0.1

per cent.

Of the total, 234 titles increased circulation, with 12 achieving at

least double-figure growth. The three papers with the strongest growth

have circulation figures of under 3,500: Malton & Pickering Mercury

(116.8 per cent), Yr Herald (28.6 per cent) and the Dumbarton & Vale of

Leven Reporter (22 per cent).

Other strong performers were the Islington Gazette (21.4 per cent), the

Surrey Comet (14.2 per cent) and the Chichester Observer (12.4 per


Taking the top 20 paid-for weeklies by circulation, the Essex Chronicle

and the West Briton swapped places at the top, with the Chronicle

gaining the top slot (50,616).

However, in real terms their circulation was static, with sales of only

a few hundred papers separating the two.

The Chichester Observer (39,483) enjoyed the strongest growth in the top

20, continuing its stand-out performance in the January to June figures,

when it grew 23.7 per cent. Publishing manager Karl Dimmock attributed

the success to ’concentrating purely on local issues’, but said several

improvements had been made to the title.

’We’ve increased the number of change pages and increased story counts,’

he said. ’We’ve also had some successful promotions.’

Dimmock said the weekly sector was performing well because the main

players had ’resisted the temptation to become pseudo-national

newspapers’. ’There’s definitely a niche between the nationals and the

regional dailies for a weekly newspaper that discusses local issues in

more depth,’ he added.

In the free weekly sector, Manchester Metro News continues to lead the

pack, with a distribution figure of 300,088, only a few copies down from

the previous period. However, average pagination was down to 90 from 94

pages, and the percentage of advertising per issue had slipped 5 per

cent to 55 per cent.

The newspaper - part of the Guardian Media Group, whose chief executive

is Ian Ashcroft - does not, as yet, appear to have been affected by the

’battle of the Metros’. Temporary injunctions were served on Associated

Newspapers and the Modern Times Group after they launched free daily

papers in Manchester, both using the word ’Metro’ in the title.

The High Court backed GMG’s claim that the launches infringed the rights

of its own brand. It launched Manchester Metro News as a weekly in


The Dorset Advertiser Series seemed to have dropped out of the list, but

the company said this was a mistake as its distribution figure had not

changed since the last ABCs. It distributes 166,110 papers in the

region, according to the January to June data.


Title                                  ABC    Year on year %

West Briton                         50,616               0.0

Essex Chronicle                     49,705               0.0

Kent Messenger                      47,949               5.7

Surrey Advertiser                   45,615               0.3

Chester Chronicle                   44,178              -0.3

Western Gazette                     43,165              -2.1

Derbyshire Times                    41,939               0.0

Hereford Times                      41,164               1.8

Kent & Sussex Courier               40,464              -0.7

Croydon Advertiser                  40,147               0.2

Chichester Observer                 39,483              12.4

Barnsley Chronicle                  39,463              -0.4

Isle of Wight County Press          39,401               2.7

Cornish Guardian                    37,992               0.5

Cumberland News                     37,438               0.9

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations (July-December 1999).