Last month I interviewed independent free newspaper publisher Chris Bullivant and his son, also called Chris, who together run Bullivant Media, for the September issue of Press Gazette.
The interview is not online but Chris Bullivant senior had some interesting things to say about the hefty profit margins that, before the recession, were being made by the big regional publishers and the cuts being imposed on editorial staff. He said most regional newspapers were still profitable.
He told me: “You can afford to employ enough journalists and photographers but not if the company has to make profit margins of 25 per cent to finance borrowings. If newspapers are making profit margins of 5 per cent that’s enough for me.
“I would far rather have a newspaper company that is making 5 per cent which is solid rather than one making 25 per cent because it’s screwed all the staff costs and made an inferior product. If you are making more than 10 per cent your papers are suffering."
Chris Bullivant junior was optimistic about the future despite the gloom of cuts and falling circulations enveloping the regional press.
He said: “I think in 12 months there won’t be this awful black cloud hanging over newspapers and journalism. I think free newspapers are always going to be there as long as you have quality journalism, plenty of faces, names and pictures going in them. We are not relying on people buying our product we are delivering it to them. Change is required but this is not a terminal industry.”