The latest print circulation figures for Britain’s regional newspapers appear to show an industry driven to the precipice and staring at imminent extinction.
Sales are in freefall – down by an average of 13.5 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014. The poor South Wales Argus fell by an eye-watering 33.2 per cent and the Doncaster Star sold barely 1,000 copies a day.
The only exceptions to this trend are Scotland’s Sunday Herald, which added 1 per cent to circulation and has 10,000 online subscribers thanks to a policy of charging for its website, and the freely-distributed London Evening Standard (owned by the same company as The Independent and i), which grew by a hefty 27.2 per cent to 890,457 copies a day.
Yet this image of the local press as cornered and facing destruction is misleading. Nor is it the case that internet paywalls and free distribution offer the only escape route from an abyss.