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
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
The Birmingham Evening Mail and the West Midlands Express & Star
dominate the sector, with circulations of 192,188 and 191,869
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.