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

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.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.