Sometimes I feel that regional and local newspapers have lost their souls, are less rooted in their communities than they were. I have been meaning to write about this but it was a correction posted by a commenter on Roy Greenslade’s blog that gave me the peg. He had written that the Mancester Evening News is the largest selling regional newspaper in England: that honour actually belongs to the Express & Star in Wolverhampton.
The Express & Star is still owned by the Graham family who were involved in its foundation in the 1880s. It also owns the Shropshire Star.
The largest selling regional morning is the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich. It too is run by a family-owned business, based in the city and now called Archant. The business has expanded rapidly in recent years to become on of the biggest regional media companies.
The Express & Star sells (ABC Monday-Saturday figures for the second half of last year) 150,553 copies a day. The Eastern Daily Press has 69,355 buyers. They both operate from small cities.
They both seem to have fared better than average in the past 20 years during which sales generally have decline steeply. A 1987 report from the Competition Commission shows just how much ownership has consolidated. There were 12 mornings then, owned by nine different companies.
The report also gives sales figures but those of the Express & Star and joined to those of its sister paper, The Shropshire Star. Those for the Eastern Daily Press are combined with those for the East Anglian Daily Times in Ipswich.
Current sales of the the Express & Star and its sister are now 69% of what they were 21 years ago. The EDP and EADT are selling 77% of their 1985 sales.
By comparison (not a good one because there are many different factors) Manchester Evening News sales are 41% or those 21 years ago. Among mornings the Western Daily Press in Bristol is selling 67% of the figure for two decades ago.
These figures are selective, selected largely by what I could find on the internet on a Sunday morning. But there is enough, I think, to justify more research. If the future of news online is local, it may be that local ownership becomes a significant factor in survival in printed and electronic forms.
Footnote: The Competition Commission report in 1987 was about the purchase of Courier Press by EMAP. The Courier then owned the Leamington Morning News, the smallest daily in Britain, which ten sold 11,000 copies and was the paper that gave me my first job. Sadly,but not surprisingly, it has been closed.