state of the industry

Years ago I bought a secondhand copy of The Guardian Media Guide 2001, a yearly almanac with lists of UK publishers and agencies and contacts and quangos and news events by month. I had no immediate use for it, and the Guardian stopped publishing them a few years later, but I carted it around from office to office and now, 12 years out, it is finally interesting as a historical document and basis for comparison with the current industry. Some surprises:

  • The number of daily and paid weekly newspapers has not collapsed. The number of daily titles is nearly the same. The number of paid weeklies has declined 7 percent since the turn of the century. However, it is not clear how much turnover in titles has taken place. And the papers are observably thinner and produced with fewer reporters and editors.
  • Free newspapers, which people in the late ’90s thought were going to put paid newspapers out of business, have not done so. In fact, the free weeklies in particular seem much harder hit than the paid newspapers (40 percent fewer titles).
  • There were only 23 regional morning papers in the UK in 2001, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most local dailies were evenings.
  • Archant, which publishes our local dailies, is the nation’s seventh largest regional press publisher and is noticeably smaller than the companies above it: Trinity Mirror, Newsquest (Gannett), Localworld, Johnston, Associated Newspapers and the Evening Standard.

The numbers: Guardian Media Guide 2001 cites Newspaper Society figures of 1,300 regional and local newspapers in the UK including 23 regular morning papers (18 paid and 5 free) and 74 evening papers. Newspaper Society figures at the start of 2013 are 1,054 regional and local titles including 80 paid dailies, 12 free dailies and 3 hybrids, for a total of 95 dailies compared with 97 earlier. There are 14 Sunday newspapers vs. 17 earlier, 491 (530) paid weekly papers, 34 hybrid weekly papers, and 420 (700) free weekly newspapers.

Freesheets broken out: 5 free morning papers and an unknown number of free evening papers in 2001, vs. 12 free daily newspapers in 2013. The 700 free weeklies in 2001 have dwindled to 420, while paid weeklies shrank from 530 to 491.