Slugger O'Toole

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Greater Belfast’s best read newspaper to fold: Community Telegraph to publish final editions next week

Sat 14 December 2013, 9:00am

Social, local, mobile was Johnston Press’s plan for survival when CEO Ashley Highfield sought to stabilise the newspaper group’s finances and future in April 2012. It’s not a unique pitch. Most newsprint owners are investing heavily in phone-browser friendly websites, fondle-friendly apps, interactivity and geographically relevant content (both created and collated).

community telegraph no moreOnce a cash cow, rival group Independent News & Media have called time on the Community Telegraph and next week’s edition will be the last.

Social, mobile, but no longer quite so local. [Ed - Two out of three ain’t bad good as Meat Loaf isn’t prone to say.]

INM’s greater Belfast freesheets – the Community Telegraph with North/East/South Belfast and North Down & Ards editions – have been on the go for a long time. The most recent circulation figures show them being dropped through 105,207 letterboxes (ABC Jan-Jun 2013) with a readership of 125,000 (NI TGI 2013).

CT best read paper in BelfastThe Belfast Telegraph’s media pack appeals to advertisers, describing the Community Telegraph as “greater Belfast’s best read newspaper”, with 56% of its readers falling into the ABC1 demographic and 61% of readers being the main shoppers in the household.

Staffed leanly and locally focussed, the freesheet was relaunched as the CT in spring 2007 and underwent a redesign earlier this year.

An INM spokesperson said that the Community Telegraph was “no longer sustainable”.

Over the years there have been a number of budding newspaper publishers in Belfast who have had varying degrees of success [Ed, you mean failure?], somewhat hampered by the free distribution of the Community Telegraph with its cross-city advertiser-friendly circulation.

CT reachThe Community Telegraph’s withdrawal presents a gap in the market to mop up remaining print advertisers and an opportunity for a weekly ‘Metro’ paper to be distributed across some of these high density markets.

While newsprint advertising has been on the slide for years, if a smaller city like Lisburn can still sustain its Lisburn Echo freesheet along with the Ulster Star, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t room for an innovative title for Belfast. Will the Belfast Media Group (publishers of the Anderstown News and North/South Belfast News) make a move?

On the other hand, if the Belfast Telegraph’s owners can’t make a go of it, maybe the writing is finally on the wall for the give-away dead tree industry funded by ad revenues?

Meanwhile in Bradford, a fortnightly freesheet that only publishes good news in a bid to champion community spirit is set to expand. The Bradfordian‘s publishing director Naz Hussain explains:

We believe that Bradford, like any city, has issues and problems and at the same time, like any city, has a core of dedicated upright, law-abiding and righteous citizens whom, whilst on the face of it carry on with their daily lives seemingly oblivious, actually care about their city and wish to see only positive outcomes.

Perhaps by championing this silent minority, we can highlight how much Bradford has to offer and despite the often deafening cries of the doom-sayers, this great city still has so much going for it.

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Comments (10)

  1. AndyB (profile) says:

    I’m not really surprised. I remember way back in the 80s and 90s the North Down Herald and Post had a lot of local content – the top half of most pages was local, with advertising on the bottom half. The Community Telegraph firstly has more advertising and secondly most of what content there is is fairly obviously the same across all editions – and I think the CT runs to about 16 pages rather than 24. I vaguely flick through and bin it.

    I have to note, though, that Belfast News is no better, and both seem to be aiming towards the South Side Advertiser.

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  2. Kevin Says (profile) says:

    Alan asks if the Belfast Media Group might now consider an expansion but it has been heading firmly in the other direction for some time.

    Its flagship Andersonstown News never recovered from the Daily Ireland disaster and was forced to drop its Monday edition. Sales and staff have been steadily disappearing since then, and the overall operation is a shadow of where it used to be.

    The North Belfast News makes an effort journalistically but has always struggled financially while the South Belfast News is a cut and paste exercise from the other two titles with a circulation which newsagents in the area put below 500.

    BMG also had weekly titles in Monaghan and Cavan but they folded around the same time as Daily Ireland.

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  3. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Sorry guys. Arguing for newspapers is a bit like those in the 1950s who supported the retention of steam trains

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  4. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    or those who supported Radio when TVs became more widespread in the 70s/80s…

    who knows what the future holds for print, but they have to be very good to survive.

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  5. Dec (profile) says:

    Tragic. I’ll have to search elsewhere for updates on what the DUP, UUP and Boys Brigade are currently up to.

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  6. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Drumlins rock

    Yours is the better analogy. I do thing things like the Irish Times or Times may survive but it will be an ABC1 market an they will do it on the quality of analysis not price.

    The Scouts BB and GAA etc have already largely moved online. It used to be that Granny would get excited at wee Billy/ Sean’s picture in the local rag – now he’s online to a Global Audience – much more impressive – and she can print and keep the photo for nothing on her PC or phone or a few pence if she wants a physical copy

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  7. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Mick

    Are you willing to publish any Slugger figures? I bet they run a few local papers clsoe

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  8. son of sam (profile) says:

    Anyone who reads Jude Collins’ blog regularly will be aware that one of his main gripes is the bias of the mainstream media against republicans.If what “Kevin Says” is true,the sales of republican supporting papers in the B M G is on a downward spiral and the whole issue of media bias has moved on.It would be interesting to learn the age profile of those who actually read newspapers any more.The younger generation may access much of their information online or from the social media.Cynic 2s query above is worthy of reply if you have the figures.

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  9. Framer (profile) says:

    While the BBC can get you sent to jail for not paying the licence fee, the local press will slide into oblivion.

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  10. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    I support Cynics point on quality, on line you get analysis of a doubtful quality at best. worse than bar room debate, with the obvious exception of my own and few others contributions. A well reasoned analysis on a proper newspaper, not a rag, is worth the money. On the other extreme everyone wants to see hatches, matches and dispatches and who has graced the local courts. This is what will survive.

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