Tele takes a hiding

 Not good circulation news at any of the local dailies last year but the Belfast Telegraph’s drop is the most dramatic of all:

Circulation figures for Northern Ireland newspapers for the period July to December 2010 as published by the Audit Bureau of Circulation today, together with the change year-on-year from the same period in 2009.

Belfast Telegraph 58,491 -11.7pc
Irish News – Morning 44,222 -3.2pc
Sunday Journal 2,598 -0.7pc
Sunday Life 54,435 -9.4pc
Ulster – News Letter 23,669 -3.6pc

The regional weeklies, with the exception of one or two of the community papers, all reflect the same trend.


    It’s a problem facing all newspapers in the modern world. They’re facing the same fate as the town criers did when the printing presses visited town all those years ago. There is a need for news and its dessemination obviously but papers are increasingly being regarded as being no longer the prime vehicle of choice in this age of 24 hours news, smart phones and tablets.

    So whither newspapers.

    If they stubbornly stick to the existing formula, they die a long slow death and end up like lamplighters waiting for towngas to make a comeback.

    They need to adapt and leave the physical world and make themselves wholly online entities. The experiment that The Times performed of charging for content did not seem to work at first but its plain to see that purchase of paper has declined so much that now even the Guardian is now charging for its iPhone app.

    Rolling news is now here to stay and papers like the BelTel and Irish News etc have to move onto the platform of the electronic media and leave the printing presses to the Ulster Museum. They can obtain revenue via advertising and subscription revenues plus special tiers of membership pricing with higher subscription for more special content such as archive etc.

    As for how it obtains its news, journalists can obtain and report news more often to feed the hourly updates but the age of journalism being a full time paid occupation may too be in jeopardy. The Wiki Isation of content has led to the fragmentation or democratisation (whichever you prefer) thus leading to a situation where everyone can be a content/news contributor.

    For editorial control however, simple : an editorial board who assess, review, edit and publish contributions as they come in.

    Ordinary people who happen to be find themselves in extraordinarty situations anywhere in the world can post stories to such an editorial board. It would lead to having more and widely varied news too.

    Exciting times for the industry, if they adapt and adapt soon, they will live for another century or two but for now, its not good news at all for printers and most journalists as they are real people who have real jobs. Time to cut the losses perhaps and give them very generous redundancy packages along with retraining grants.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    In the case of the Belfast Telegraph, it couldnt happen to a nicer newspaper. Id welcome its demise. It played the “liberal” unionist card too long before making a half hearted attempt to be some kind of neutral. For all their faults, the News Letter and Irish News have a degree of integrity and a quality of reporting that the Belfast Telegraph lacks.
    The sooner it sinks without trace…the better.

  • JAH

    I think the last election finally did for the influence of the press. Despite all the proTory claptrap in most of Fleet Street, the public didn’t buy it. In fact they don’t buy papers any more at all. I haven’t bought one this year and I used to have them delivered daily.

    No wonder Murdoch seems content to flog off his papers to the even more odious Desmond if he can get Sky. Of course he wants to turn Sky into Fox…

    As for the Tele, having delivered them in my youth I suppose I have an affection for the poor thing, but I’d agree with Fitz that it deserves a good kicking. But then so does the BBC and UTV who ignored the reality around them. One could point out that they are again in a cosy conspiracy with the Stormont administration.

    The big change now is nobody needs them or much cares if they go. But jez where is anyone going to read my death notice!

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was trying to think of the last time the Tele broke a big story.

  • alan56

    The answer is for the Newsletter and Irish News to become the ‘Irish Newsletter’. They’d make a fortune!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well indeed, my late father liked a lie in on a Saturday and he used to read the Irish News before he got up. “If my name isnt in it…..I should get up”.
    The Tele was actually a con job on the “Counting Day” after an election. You leave work 5pm… the Tele because of some misleading headline and read that “Peter Robinson was believed to be doing well in East Belfast” or “Gerry Adams possibly doing well in West Belfast”, “Alliance Party believed to have polled poorly in Mid Ulster”.
    Meanwhile youd pass by the TVs on display in Dixons and get a more up to date view.
    But yes the Tele ship has sunk with a lot of “liberal” unionists on board …it seems uncertain…..whether to merely knock the DUP-SF monopoly, or be soft-Alliance but has ruled out the idea of being fully representative of the City of Belfast and beyond.
    A few months ago, Slugger hosted an event at NIVCA where some local journalists seemed to be full of praise for the Irish News but the Tele did not fare so well…..even if their most professional journalist was on the panel.

  • aquifer

    Bloated complacent flabby patronising provincial wee ulster unionist broadsheet advertising billboard the meanness with the money was not the worst of it.

    I can’t even read it online for free without feeling diminished.

    Handy for catching paint spots or lighting the fire tho’

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin,

    “I was trying to think of the last time the Tele broke a big story”.

    Possibly it was the Titanic. But seriously the raison d’etre of the Belfast Telegraph was for generations to pretend that there was no news. Everything was lovely. Just feel good pieces by Billy Simpson, Eddie McIlwaine and Mr World Cup Brodie.
    Politics is divides……and eventually the people of Belfast caught on that the Tele would never rock any boat (not even the Titanic).
    It thoroughly deserves the fate it is going to get.

  • Kevin Barry

    The problem for the Tele, IMO, perhaps isn’t so much to do with its politics but the fact that it is an awful read.

    The standard of journalism in the Tele, in general, is god awful, dire, and makes me feel dirty after reading it.

    Their are a few obvious exceptions, Ed Curran being one though he’s not of my shade of politics.

  • Mark

    I don’t know how much Mick charges for an appearance fee but he has to be better than anything RTE/Newstalk offered tonite .

    Irish News for news , Slugger O Toole for the views .

    I hope that might buy me a few brownie points , thats if brownie doesn’t have them already …..

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I cant comment on its current journalists. Its years since I actually bought it. The euphoria at realising that somebody has left a newspaper on a train soon dissipates when I discover its the Telegraph.
    To some extent it is living on the reputation of Ed Curran, Alf McCreary and even “Laugh with Larry” in the “Pink”. Nowadays we have Eric Waugh….in retirement freed from any constraints of public broadcasting telling us that the old unionist regime was “brilliant so it was” and the aforementioned Simpson, McIlwaine and Brodie who are all probably retired…..who have been re-hashing the same columns for years.
    “Ulster people are really brilliant” (Simpson)
    “Ah Ruby Murray..she could sing” (McIlwaine)
    “George Best….better than Pele” (Brodie)

    There is also a woman journalist who likes to remind us that politicians are just ghastly and she doesnt live in Belfast. But shes not as bad as the woman who used to say that kinda thing a few years back.

  • Frame

    The BBC is destroying the print media with its Pravda-style subsided news sites and guaranteed income. It will see Fleet Street and its local equivalents to their grave.

    The BBC actually employs 7,000 journalists. Who could compete with that?

    Oddly the liberal left is not one bit worried about their monopoly.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The BBC is destroying the print media with its Pravda-style subsided news sites


    Newspapers are in trouble generally. Has the Sunday Tribune got any buyers yet ?

    The BBC actually employs 7,000 journalists. Who could compete with that?

    People have been competing with the BBC just fine for quite a long time now.

  • Phew! Makes me a lot less worried about the modest readership at Newcastle Rocks – at least it’s on the rise.

  • “I was trying to think of the last time the Tele broke a big story.” …. Comrade Stalin, 20 February 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Would they recognise one even whenever IT presents it them, Comrade, via irregular and unconventional means/virtual memes, or are they too cosily blinkered to not think on what they are told/fed, for although the following is elsewhere and foreign, it is local and relative …….

    Did the IRA bomb the sQuare mile & suddenly get results (it was property damage) while the countless horrible- Ugly -savage Murders got neither(divide n’ rule) ‘side’ nowhere.” …. Posted by TheLostPast on 2/19/2011 1:45:57 PM

    The PSNI have learned, or have been taught of that little lesson that extorts money with the threat of menaces, but have virtually refined it somewhat, probably with Military Intelligence input [well Knock HQ is physically only minutes away from Loughside’s new barrack of a building] to extract, as most recently as last week, an extra quarter of a billion [a Stirling* 250,000,000 pounds sterling] ostensibly/supposedly to combat a growing but surprisingly inept and impotent dissident threat, which is oft aired but always ingeniously thwarted and countered. It is a nice, if somewhat perverse and subversive lever to have stored in memory to lean on though, but a bit too blunt a self-destructive instrument and bull-in-a-china-shop white elephant in the room, to be thought of as a SMART move in these Changed Days with their ZerodDays and Novel IT ProgramMING Projects.

    But hey, one just can’t get enough of the right stuff and jolly decent staff, who know what they are supposed to do, and what is expected of them for the future free-running of the Systems’ Engines, nowadays, old bean, which is sure to be a failure of teaching and learning in education for intelligence. So that is what must surely be addressed and fixed, tout de suite, if not sooner.

    What say you?

    *… …. “Like the steam engine, the Stirling engine is traditionally classified as an external combustion engine,….” ….. how very apt considering the tired old modus operandi of the protagonists.

  • Just a thought but have the figures dropped since the Romanian/Eastern European sellers were taken off the streets?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The exploitatation of these newspaper sellers by their gang master employers was a story the Belfast Telegraph missed….right under their noses. Ah well……….Im surprised someone hasnt mentioned its a “much loved part of our city”. …like the trolley bus.

  • Frame

    Cde. Stalin announces that “People have been competing with the BBC just fine for quite a long time now” AFTER saying newspapers are in trouble generally.

    But it is free news websites that are taking people from newspapers. I was going to say like the BBC’s, but then it is not free – we all pay through the licence fee poll tax. And we get a very narrow, public-sectorist world view for our money.

    You can’t uninvent the internet but that does not mean the BBC should be granted a monopoly at our expense and at the expense of other journalists and proprietors.

  • Cynic2

    The reason for the Tele’s demise is simple. Its crap.

    Tired. Uninformative. Useless. Formulaic. Lazy.

    How much longer can it survive on just sending in hundreds of FOI requests then regurgitating them as ‘Shock Horror!’ stories?

    “MLA’s Spend £500 a year just on staples!!”

    “Civil Servants warn of disaster (que shroud waving) unless more money is spent on them / they get more staff”

    “Something Must Be Done”

    “House Price Fall Shock”

    “Petrol Price Rise Shock”

    Well, that’s this weeks headlines taken care of.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Frame, newspapers are dying out because there are now faster and quicker ways to get news.

    Rabbitting on about the BBC is a sideshow. Newspapers are in trouble everywhere, including the USA where there is no BBC or anything which corresponds to it. In the case of the Belfast Telegraph, it’s because a lot of the time they’re crap. Cynic2’s treatise is about right, although he forgot the picture of “here’s a picture of a lovely girl” or “here’s STUNNING Miss Northern Ireland sitting on a car bonnet” thing that they really seem to have taken up in a big way over the past ten years. It will be interesting, though, to see what Liam Clarke is able to accomplish as political editor.

    You may think that the BBC is unfairly biased. I don’t agree, the right enjoy plenty of representation eg people like David Frost, Andrew Neil etc. I don’t know whether Nick Robinson deserves to be called right wing for smashing up a protestor’s anti-war sign but it hardly smacks of the BBC being their sympathizers.

    The BBC news site is one of the single most popular sites on the internet, enjoying a worldwide audience. I suspect this is because people know that the BBC will often show a side to a story that isn’t quite so readily available elsewhere.

  • Neil

    At least part of the Tele’s problem is that it’s so biased (Unionist) in it’s views that any Nationalists who were buying it in the past will have gotten fed up with it now. Taking this example (first example found with a quick search):

    The Sinn Fein victory in the Donegal by-election is impressive, but not altogether surprising…

    … Sinn Fein had a good candidate in Pearse Doherty, but this was essentially a protest vote rather than a bright new dawn for Gerry Adams and his colleagues…

    … At the moment, the headlines are good for Sinn Fein, but on closer examination it is doubtful how widespread its political appeal will be in the Republic-apart from the Donegal voters who wanted to give the ruling coalition a bloody nose…

    … Sinn Fein will continue to bask in the glow of the Donegal victory, but a grim day of reckoning is coming sooner rather than later. In the upcoming general election, though to be taking place early next year, the voters will have the final say. Sinn Fein and its supporters may then wake up to political and financial reality.

    So in essence, despite the various opinion polls on voting intentions, Doherty was ok but lucky and Sinn Fein are set to be taught a stark lesson at the polls.

    Yeah the stark lesson of increasing their representation by likely over 100%.

    The Tele attempts to pretend that there’s some journalistic integrity, that their opinions aren’t just playing to the Unionist masses by expressing the opinion that they think most matches their readership.

    Unfortunately for the BT many of those Unionists would prefer to read the actual Telegraph, instead of the BT’s articles in which the reality is all Republicans and SF are set on the verge of or immediately after a severe defeat, and where Unionists always come out looking good even when news outlets from across the globe don’t quite see it that way.

    I used to buy it, but am one of many who won’t bother anymore unless I’m looking for work.

  • “The BBC news site is one of the single most popular sites on the internet, enjoying a worldwide audience. I suspect this is because people know that the BBC will often show a side to a story that isn’t quite so readily available elsewhere.” ……. Comrade Stalin, 21 February 2011 at 9:27 am

    Oh now, come on, Comrade Stalin, you cannot be serious. They are so predictably status quo as to be regarded as practically backward and virtually retarded in the sublime art of human programming and perception management by media streaming.

  • abucs

    I was reading Chesterton a couple of days ago, he reckoned –

    to be educated is to be able to read all the newspapers and to be educated properly is to know that having read them all, you know enough not to believe what they’ve said. 🙂

  • Nunoftheabove


    Have to agree, I don’t believe there’s anything mysterious about BT’s decline – the quality of the paper is what’s in part at least resulting in its decline and we should be glad about that. Even the sports reporting is now garbage, the columnists by and large now failed Daily Mail contributors; OK, McCann, Fisk and Steel are always readable, but for every one of those there is an excruciating Lindey McDowell, a toe-curling Jane Graham, a yawning Alf bloody McCreary – enough already with the intelligence insults. So much of it is syndicated plain vanilla mush and gossip column rubbish and worthless ‘lifestyle’ celebrity moron-fodder that people can get for free in Metro.

    The Sunday Life was never been much of a paper to begin with and there’s better quality both up and downmarket already in that market to be had. Initially I bought it as a second or third Sunday paper but found so little in it that I discontinued fairly soon afterwards.

    Even their online reader contribution facility is laughably under-utlized.

  • Neil

    the quality of the paper is what’s in part at least resulting in its decline

    Maybe to a certain degree yes, but one has to wonder, given their national/international news is usually written by Fisk (or another respected journo) for one of the real papers over the water, and lifted in it’s entirety to the BT.

    So if the quality is lacking, it’s mainly in the local news. I have to return to the fact that it’s content is so skewed that any Nationalist readers are likely to give it a miss. Hardly a recipe for success in a place with a 1.5m population – cutting off nearly half your readership.

  • billythekid

    All news outlets lean a certain way, we just have to use our own brains to figure out where we stand. I think that is a fine way to approach newspapers or broadcast news, the truth is usually somwhere between them all………….. However the Bellylaugh is crap, its demise may be more to do with the ipad than it being crap though.

  • Dewi

    “Sunday Journal 2,598 -0.7pc” – That’s Derry right? How on earth does it survive on that low a circulation?

  • Frame

    Cde. Stalin is right that in America newspapers are leaching readers as well, however the BBC is the only media organisation that will never need or attempt to erect a paywall.

    It will therefore be the last man standing and can afford to offer its chief executive more than the £800,000 he currently receives (5,000 licence fee payers required for that).

    Oddly, the BBC NI website takes about an hour to notice breaking news and 12 hours at the weekend, and that’s before spelling names wrongly.

    But they never fail in UK politics to interview all parties from the left, and Today positively purrs when a TU leader defending public sector pensions (yes Ponzi schemes) comes on the air for interview.

  • StarHound


    The Sunday Journal is more than helped out by the other two issues of the Derry Journal, see further down the page at the link.

    ‘Derry Journal (Fri) 18,182 -1.9pc
    Derry Journal (Tue) 15,848 -3.8pc
    Derry Journal Group 58,365 -3.6pc’

    Belfast Telegraph:

    Long since a pointless purchase due to it’s sheer lack of real news and analysis. Claims of ‘balance’ have no credibility in the face of the ‘UK’ bias in it’s language and the clear anti-nationalist tilt of it’s reporting, columnists and editorial.

    Lazy pages of tittle tattle and trivia from the PR world seem like cheap filler, especially when accompanied by a few columnists who it’s claimed shoot from the hip etc etc but more frequently seem to talk from their uniformed backsides.

    It’s circulation must surely have halved in the last ten years by these figures.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If I was employed by the Belfast Telegraph Id be sending my CV to a few other media outlets. And its a shrinking market.

  • Dewi

    Starthound -I’d read that which makes the low circulation of the Sunday edition even more bewildering…..

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    To some extent the Troubles “made” the Irish News.
    And destroyed the Belfast Telegraph.
    Its hard to recall that in the 1960s the Irish News was 8 pages of broadsheet. Occasionally just six pages. Page2 full of death notices and Page 7/8 Sport (actually just Gaelic sport and dog racing from Dunmore & Celtic Park……the tipster couldnt tip his hat……and “Red Hand” and “Course Wire” tipping the horseys).
    But like it or not ……and unionists dont…..the Irish News articulated the views of its readership.

    The Belfast Telegraph could not do that……because it had two readerships and went for a lowest common denominator approach. Lets all send coupons saying Terence O’Neill is great……brilliant idea the Alliance Party……unionist visionaries welcome David Bleakley and GB Newe……lets support law and order…rally round Chi Chi, Faulkner, West, Molyneaux, Trimble…….lets pretend our Catholic neighbours all vote Alliance or worst case scenario SDLP and lets sell so called liberal (sic) unionism until nobody buys it anymore.
    It cant actually move to the middle ground….historically it would be risible but in political terms makes no sense……and actually embracing unionism and republicanism as equally valid is beyond its mindset.

    Recovery is impossible.

  • What do you expect your newspapers to do?

    Report the news ….. of events/ideas and actions of assorted others, who have decided to create the news with their own ideas as to how events are to be, and thus have a chronicle of what will already by the time you read them, have been reacted to and been overtaken by other events/ideas actioned upon, and thus be a record of the past which you have no influence over ……. or create the news with something novel you can add to, and watch grow into something which everyone can build and enjoy.

    It isn’t rocket science, creating Reality and the Future, Virtually, with the sharing of SMARTer Intelligence Solutions for SMARTer Intelligence Systems, and IT is not even difficult once you know what you are doing and how to do IT Remotely from Clouds, for that is where IT is at, and there’s no escaping that ………

    And what you may not know, for it is not general knowledge for any number of very good reasons, and some aspects of what is not known, will remain unknown for the very best of reasons which themselves are best left unknown and pondered in one’s imagination, is that the Intellectual Property which underpins the Cloud ProgramMING Platform has been thoroughly developed and betatested right here in the Province…….. although you may find that Stormont might deny it, because it is highlights both their political and intellectual failings in the matter, and will cause the Executive Office, acute embarrassment, although that is hardly new for them.

    Oh dear, what a shame, whenever they have no one else but themselves to blame.

  • Cynic2

    All the local titles suffer from the same problem – each addresses a one community market segment

    I swear this is is true. I live in a very mixed area. In my local newsagent I couldn’t figure out why the papers were in two places. Then I realised. On one rack they had all the UK nationals and local unionist papers. On the other – about 20 feet away – all the Irish nationals and Irish News. And the poor old Tele in a tattered cardboard display near the till in the middle.

    I swear this is completely true, Event the papers were segregated, I was actually shocked when I realised it.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I certainly recognise the scenario Cynic2 describes but dont think its unduly sinister. I never buy local papers except if a headline catches my eye and the Village shop does not stock English broadsheets….the only daily papers being the Irish News, News Letter, Mirror & Sun. But they are as in most newsagents laid out in the same order. Not enough to be representative but my general feeling from newsagents is that Belfast papers are stocked together, Dublin papers, tabloids, qualities.
    I just think people like to walk into the shop and know their paper is in same place.
    Nor is it sinister that papers publish FOR and ABOUT a community….the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent are all produced and read by people with a view of the world.
    When I travel to Belfast, I generally buy the Guardian….NOT because of its coverage of “reporting” politics but rather when I turn to the opinion pieces, I find my view of the world reflected.
    The Belfast Telegraphs problem is that people dont share its world view…or even its opting out of politics for “feel good” stories.

  • Cynic2

    I disagree – it shows our mindsets

  • To give a perspective over the continued decline over a long period, I’ve graphed the ABCs of three of the local NI papers over on a new post, and (naughtily) trended the possible intersection of the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News …

  • Driftwood

    It would be easy to guess (but difficult to prove) the age profiles of the respective readerships. I’m guessing the news letter has a pretty aged demographic. It even has a farming supplement at weekends!. The Irish News goes big on GAA and at least attempts articles for a younger audience. The BT probably skews older middle age and launches spurious campaigns to save the railways, save our education etc in a lamentable attempt to resuscitate. The loss of revenue from the Jobfinder and Housefinder hangover aint gonna come back anytime soon either.
    As for buying a used car….

  • John D

    Nobody seem to have made the obvious point that you can read all (or nearly all) of the Bel Tel online (columnists and all) whereas you have to “subscribe” to the Irish News website. So making it more likely you’ll buy the print edition if you really want to know what the IN is saying

    That said, the Irish News seems to have a better idea of who its audience is, and a better news sense. And don’t forget papers like the Sun and the Mirror make a decent effort at getting NI stories in their local editions.

    Btw, you whingers over here don’t know how lucky you are compared to Wales, which has nearly twice the population and only the thinly staffed Western Mail (in the south) and the Daily Post (in the north) to provide daily local news.

  • Nunoftheabove


    I for one hope that “Red Hand” and “Course Wire” are living out their days in the sort of penury the rest of us would have had we followed their naps even more often than we already did…. 😉

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ive been trying and failing to recall the name of the “greyhound guy”. In the days before my time, I think he was called “Ben Madigan” .