Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Not as Newsworthy

Not as Newsworthy

Back in 2012, the Press Gazette noted that Claverley’s Directors report (they owned Guiton) read:

“In the Channel Islands the newspapers publishing companies faced harsh trading conditions resulting in customers cutting their advertising spend. With the economic outlook for the year remaining flat at best with little indication of any sustained economic recovery in the short-term, the trading conditions remain challenging.”

Guiton Group is the parent company of the local newspapers. And now further details are emerging this of potential job losses at both the Jersey Evening Post and Guernsey Press. As Bailiwick Express reported:

“It seems an announcement was made late on Friday evening, that the newspapers’ parent company, Guiton Publishing, was reviewing the businesses and redundancies could be on the agenda. Speaking to ITV news, a spokesman is reported to have said: ‘Guiton Publishing has announced to all employees that it is entering a period of consultation, which will seek input from staff on the changes to the business that are required to provide the best possible services to our audience, both in print and online.’ This morning, the MD of Guiton Publishing, Paul Carter, said that no further comment would be made until that consultation period had been completed, aside from saying that, ‘... it may only be a small number of employees who might ultimately be impacted.’”

As I understand it, many journalists are now on a freelance basis, a trend which shows no sign of stopping. The number of permanent staffers are the main ones impacted by changes.

The Jersey Evening Post also has a number of non-journalistic columnists, such as Gavin Ashenden, Rob Duhamel, Jonathan Renouf, Ben Shenton and until elected Sarah Ferguson. Gavin certainly let slip that this was unpaid, so there is already cost cutting measures in place. In the old days, columnists – such as Betty Brooke (Hardbencher) or Gordon Young (In My View) were journalists, and paid as such.

What are the figures? The website “Hold the Front Page” reports for 2015 that Jersey had a daily readership of 15,500 for the JEP, a drop of 7.4% on the previous year. The Guernsey Press and Star had 13,402, a drop of 3.9%..

August 2015 gave the figures: JEP 15,002, Guernsey Press 13,197. At that time, the story also reported that they were two of the best regional paper performers:

“The Lancashire Telegraph was the best-performing UK regional daily in the first half of 2015 according to the regional ABC figures published today. It was the only regional daily to post a year-on-year increase in print circulation at 1.6pc. Channel Island dailies the Guernsey Press and Star (-3.7pc) and Jersey Evening Post (-3.9pc) registered the next best performances over the same period.”

Looking ahead to this year:

“Today’s six-monthly ABC figures revealed all regional daily newspapers in the United Kingdom experienced a decline in circulation between January and June of 2016, when compared to the first half of 2015. “

Guernsey Press had an average daily readership of 12,580, a drop of 4.7% on same time last year, while the Jersey Evening had Post 13,791, a drop of 8.1%.

All told, it has a steadily eroding readership base, and while there is an online version, it does not seem to feature in the top online figures, perhaps because it is behind a paywall, whereas the rival Bailiwick Express is not.

More information - such as the Gazette information regarding States notices (and is currently a legal requirement of the states), while still printed in the JEP, is also available online. It is likely that this quite lucrative source of revenue will go in the next few years.

Meanwhile the “Bailiwick Express”, a new publication with some former JEP staffers at its journalistic helm, has probably been grabbing readership: it is an online only presence, with the occasional detailed interview or backgrounder on headline stories. Other websites - BBC and ITV (Channel) have been revamping themselves - ITV in particular has had some very good background blogs on detailed stories by Gary Burgess, while BBC's Ryan Morrison has also been doing sterling work.

The JEP itself says:

“The daily adult readership of the Jersey Evening Post (all adults aged 16 years and over) is 47,114 – representing around 56% of the entire adult population of the Island.”

This is, according to them, from figures derived from the States of Jersey Annual Social Survey.

But in 2012, the JEP itself reported: “The newspaper’s average net circulation was 17,912 copies a day in the first six months of 2012, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. (ABC)”

The ABC circulation figures that I’ve given above appear much closer to that than the somewhat fanciful figure of 47,114. . That’s 13,791 copies a day, representing a much smaller percentage of the adult population.

And at BBC News, Ryan Morrison reports much the same:
"The Jersey Evening Post circulation is currently about 14,000 according to ABC, a company which records newspaper circulations. It was nearly 21,000 in 2007. The Guernsey Press and Star had a circulation of 12,500 in 2016 down from 16,000 in 2007."
At £15.75 per month, the JEP’s “Extra Ultimate packages” does represent good value, providing (1) FREE delivery of the JEP six days a week (2) Smartphone App (3) Tablet (4) Online (5) Shared e-edition of the JEP and £125 worth of FREE classified advertising for private sales/announcements.

By my reckoning, that comes to about the same as the paper version but includes the online version. The online only version is £14.58 per month, slightly less. But the question is: how many people are prepared to pay when other sources of news are readily available? I also suspect some readers share a paper, so the actual figures are slightly greater than given by ABC.

It would be a shame if we lost what has been a part of Island life for decades, but difficult times are ahead. And in case you ask, yes, I do usually buy the JEP. Like most Tabloids, it suffers from a surfeit of advertising, but I do enjoy the features, especially the interviews with prominent islanders.

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