Friday, February 18, 2005

UK evening papers under threat

We don't have any left in Australia ... at least I don't think so. But they do in London. In fact, it's so long since there was an evening metro paper in an Australian city that most young readers probably aren't even aware of the tradition. Of course MX in Melbourne keeps the old flame alive in some ways ... but it ain't the same.

Do we want them back? Maybe. But who's got time to read an evening paper? If I want something meatier than MX (which I do) I print a handful of pieces from Arts & Letters Daily for reading on the train home.

The poms, though, are still worrying about the death of evening papers. As far as it is part of the inexorable decline of readership generally, it's most definitely worth worrying about. But from a nostalgic point of view - fuggedaboudit!

Simon Jenkins won't though. Here he makes the point that monopolies are not healthy for newspapers:
"The Standard's troubles began when it became a monopoly in 1980. No monopoly paper can satisfy every point on the spectrum. When Beaverbrook's old Standard as spliced with Harmsworth's old Evening News, the pill was sweetened by the single title remaining the Standard. But a competitive edge was lost. Journalists no longer measured their work against a rival. Their enemy became a solitary and remorseless one, the circulation figure. It has beaten them at every turn."
There is a big opening for free evening commuter papers:
"The obvious question now is whether the group can recoup the plummeting revenue from sales by increasing revenue from freesheet advertising. This is not inconceivable.

There is a shift, admittedly often a desperate one, from paid-for to free evening papers worldwide."
Jenkins is not pessimistic about the industry, though:

"The total circulation of so-called quality titles has risen steadily over the past 40 years, bolstered by constant product change. It was 1.8m in 1960, 2.2m in 1980 and is an admittedly hesitant 2.3m today. In the past year, those that have failed to innovate - the Telegraph, Guardian and Financial Times - have suffered. But others, notably the Times and the Independent, have boomed. The compact revolution has been an adrenalin shot no one predicted. Later this year comes the 'midi' Guardian, and perhaps another revolution. Dead this industry is not."

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