The question posed most frequently at this week’s Society of Editors’ conference in Bristol was “just how painful is this going to be?” By “this” editors mean a combination of negative forces that are engulfing the regional press and some fear will create a “perfect storm”.
Falling circulation and ad revenues combined with the fallout from the credit crunch, all at a time when newspapers are trying to develop digital services, has led to the gloomiest predictions about the future.
Many of the editors say their papers have been cut to the bone and see regional newspaper closures as inevitable. No wonder that the idea of bailing out struggling regionals with state subsidies has been floated. Or that lobbying has already begun for the Government to relax the newspaper takeover regulations.
Some believe the picture will get even gloomier when Trinity and Johnston Press announce their figures shortly. Pessimists have not ruled out a major regional newspaper group crashing into administration because of massive falls in ad revenues. New SoE president Nigel Pickover has urged owners to stop “milking” the regional press and to take their “foot off the profit pedal”. But is there any milk left?” There are a lot of very worried newspaper people out there.