The changing market for local & regional newspapers
The circulation of local and regional papers has been in long-term decline for at least 15 years in the UK, and some parts of Europe have experienced similar trends. Over the past few years, the Henley Centre has been asked by a number of individual papers to analyse their changing market place in order to: assess the nature of the circulation decline in their area and the factors creating it determine whether continued decline is inevitable recommend the most effective methods of increasing circulation if the decline is not inevitable. This paper outlines the general conclusions of the projects undertaken. The approach in most projects has been to take three starting points. The first is to build econometric models of circulation to understand the precise quantitative relationships between measurable changes in the operating environment, actions taken by the newspaper, and circulation. The second is to use the Henley Centre's analysis of economic and social change to understand changes in the characteristics of the circulation area and the people living within it. This helps explain the results of the econometric models and suggest appropriate action to change undesirable relationships in the future. The third is to examine developments in alternative media and the effect this is likely to have. As a result of these three starting points, we are able to create hypotheses about the correct way forward. These are tested in quantitative and qualitative original research. We are then able to make recommendations in respect of the optimal marketing tactics to follow, and on how each day's paper should be structured day-by-day. This paper broadly follows this structure. Two points should be noted at the outset. The first is our broad conclusion that 'there is no reason to believe continued decline is inevitable. The second is that this is to some extent proved by the success of particular papers. One title, re-launched four months ago on the basis of our recommendations (and a good editorial/design/marketing team) has put on 10 copies -20% with a reduced cost base and only moderate promotion.
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