Birmingham Post hit by internet rivals
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The Birmingham Post might cease daily publication after 152 years, becoming the first flagship newspaper of a large city to go weekly in response to the recession and competition from online media.
“You will see more closures and shifts to weekly publication among paid-for dailies in the next couple of years,” said Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis, a media consultancy. “The papers in big cities are particularly exposed.”
Local papers have been hit badly by a recessionary slump in display advertising that has exacerbated a cash crisis resulting from a shift in classified advertising to the internet. Enders Analysis forecasts that advertising sales will slip to £1.8bn this year, 40 per cent lower than in 2003. Circulations have shrunk as consumers source more news digitally, or from TV and national newspapers.
The circulation of the Birmingham Post has dropped from 18,500 to 12,700 since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Locally, a fully paid circulation of less than 7,000 is spoken of. It is understood that options studied by Trinity Mirror, which owns the white-collar morning title, include converting the lossmaking publication into a weekly title. The media group might publish the Birmingham Mail, an evening newspaper with a blue-collar readership, in the mornings instead. This would trigger wide-ranging redundancies, from delivery drivers to newsagents and journalists in a newsroom that services several titles.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “I worry that we will miss the Birmingham Post terribly. Its circulation is tiny but it is very influential because it is read by all the decisionmakers in the city.” Trinity Mirror would only say “if there is a formalised plan, the first people that we will communicate it to will be our staff”.
Other local papers are feeling the pinch. The Manchester Evening News switched to part-free distribution in 2006. Free copies are handed out in the city centre while those in the suburbs are paid for. Circulation has still fallen, with 81,092 copies of the total circulation of 153,724 distributed free in the last six months of the year. Two years ago, the MEN posted profits of £14m. But in the year to March 2009 it only just broke even and is now believed to be lossmaking. Guardian Media Group, the owner, is cutting 150 jobs cuts across the paper and 22 weekly regional titles.
The Liverpool Daily Post, a highbrow morning paper like the Birmingham Post, has also had to cut costs along with the Echo, its evening stablemate. Trinity Mirror is closing its presses in Liverpool with about 100 job losses and switching printing to Oldham. The Echo will have a morning edition as well as evening to increase its availability.
The company has rejected union claims it wishes to merge the titles. It sold an average of 12,910 per day in the last six months of 2008 and gave away 6,000 copies.
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