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Stormy waters for Johnston Press

Harrogate AdvertiserJohnston Press has unveiled plans to convert five of its daily newspapers into weeklies.

The Scarborough Evening News, Halifax Courier, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Peterborough Evening Telegraph and Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph will all make the switch to weekly in May.

Johnston said it would also relaunch all of its 170 paid-for titles and websites by the end of 2012 to embrace “platform neutral” publishing.

The first phase is focused on Johnston’s newspapers in Halifax, Kettering, Northampton, Peterborough and Scarborough.

The company said the move was part of plans to create “platform neutral” newsrooms with “significant investment in both print and digital publishing”.

It is not yet known how many jobs will be cut as a result.

Johnston claimed the decision to switch to a weekly would allow “seven days per week publishing online and on a new iPad app with news updates around the clock and comprehensive online sport and events coverage”.

It said its online offering would be complemented by a “bumper print edition” of the weekly paper and “light touch” re-launch of the website with improved social networking and commenting,

Each of the 170 paid for titles are expected to benefit from a “major redesign exercise” as part of the re-launch initiative.

Locally the Johnston Press owns the Advertiser Series of weekly newspapers which has continued to see a year on year decline in the readership.

From Press Gazette Statistics February 2012:

  • Harrogate Advertiser : weekly circulation 12,710 a reduction of 6.9% in the year
  • Knaresborough Post : weekly circulation 2,734 a reduction of 8.2% in the year
  • Ripon Gazette : weekly circulation 4,644 a reduction of 8.3% in the year
  • Wetherby News : weekly circulation 3,867 reduction of 6.7% in the year

Circulation is based on average weekly sales during the previous 6 months with the percentage change year on year.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said:

In my first few months at Johnston I have been greatly encouraged by what I have seen in our local operations. Our publishing strategy going forward will ensure that we give our local audiences what they want.

While providing our existing audiences with an even better product, both in print and online, we will extend our audience by increasing our online content and making it easier to access in the most relevant ways as technologies continue to evolve.

Johnston’s focus has always been on local and we will increasingly benefit from that core expertise with the rapid growth in both social media and in demand for access from mobile devices.

We are committed to remaining a local company: that means local journalists and sales people working across the UK and Republic of Ireland, staying close to the communities and businesses they serve.

Staff at the company have also been rocked by news that the editorships of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post were being combined and that both Peter Charlton and Paul Napier had been placed under risk of redundancy.

Lancashire Evening Post editor Simon Reynolds have also been placed on leave and the deputy editor positions at the Lancashire Evening Post, the Blackpool Gazette and the Wigan Evening Post are being scrapped.

Acknowledgement needs to go to Andrew Pugh of The Press Gazette for the majority contribution to this news item.


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