Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Farewell to the Evening Leader

So the Evening Leader is no more, replaced - as I hinted recently -by the Morning Leader.

Given the direction regional newspapers are taken generally, it's no surprise - the South Wales Evening Post has been printed overnight for more than a year now and others will follow.

The challenge of the internet as a source of news and entertainment is making it more and more difficult to sell newspapers of all kinds. This comment highlights the problem - even newspaper addicts like myself find we can do without buying a newspaper every day. That's a slippery slope to getting all information online - partly because it's quicker and cheaper, but also because it's more comprehensive and geared towards an individual's needs.

If, for example, I want to find out what's happening at Wrexham AFC, both on and off the field, the first point of call would always be Red Passion.

Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for the Leader. I remember as a kid when it first came out in 1973 and we were soon hooked as a family. I also spent four happy years working in the Mold HQ as a sub-editor in the early 1990s. Back then we'd still be working on the front page until about 11am whereas today the paper has already been printed and is on sale in the town centre by then. So deadlines have moved and there is less of today's news in the paper.

The key issue that no paper - from the Leader to Rupert Murdoch's stable of reactionary rags - has yet worked out is how to charge for the content on the web in the same way as they charge for a newspaper. By its nature, internet readership is more fragmented with some opting only for the news or sports sections or even just one specific story that can be e-mailed to friends and colleagues. Advertising is also migrating to the internet but to what extent will probably determine the fate of the local press.

For what it's worth, I think the best of the local press will overcome the internet and mobile phone challenge, just as they overcame radio, television and teletext in turn. It remains a convenient and relatively cheap way to access news - and you read a paper in the bath!


Petroc Gwersyllt said...

In the last thirty years the Welsh medium papur bro have succeeded as community newspapers written and circulated by volunteers. It may be time for english 'activist led' local community papers. They already exist in my area and get a small council grant to help printing.
The Evening Leader was a formative part of my education in Wrexham - children read what is in the house - so its a big loss in book free houses.
Note that the BBC Cymru wesite has collected all of the papur bro content and now publishes it under it's 'local to you' section. Perhaps Wrexham Council can do the same for Nene and Y Clawdd and other community papers.
Peter Humphreys (ex Gwersyllt)
Petroc ap Seisyllt

Pelagius said...

Not good news, eh? Part of the process with newspapers globally and the Welsh media of all kinds in particular, and that from a fractured base.

I fear there is no way of stopping these trends; there are no successful, alternative 'business models'. I also fear a BBC monopoly, especially in Wales; British and Labour.

My own view is that we must create our own internet-based media using mobile phone technology although I now agree with what Petroc says too.

Peter D Cox said...

Every newspaper is a loss - particularly in Wales: in the south we are waiting for "The National Newspaper of Wales" to demise - perhaps a weekly magazine, or an 'all-day' newspaper.
Newspaper management is as much to blame as readers. With the Western Mail we are in a deadly embrace of decline: public sector advertising is squeezed (the profits); journalists are cut (both in quantity and quality); the national, ie UK, news is increasingly re-subbed agency; and 'local' is regurgitated press releases. Why buy something that is essentially second hand news, lacks robust criticism or informed comment, and dreary to boot?
Once we were a seven a day (inc Wales on Sunday), then it became six - now it's barely two.
Given WAG's shameful lack of support for a Welsh national newspaper, what hope for an English language journal of serious debate and record?
If those of us who chose to be in Wales want this country to succeed then this is a question that needs an urgent answer, otherwise both democracy and nationhood will suffer.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Good point Petroc - voluntary networks seem to have survived better, perhaps because people are more committed to them.

Pelagius: The weakness of the Welsh press has forced the blogosphere to come into its own to a certain extent (although it's pitifully weak by comparison). The internet does present democratic opportunities that weren't previously available to community groups and campaigners. In the past, there was only leafletting or advertising to contact people. Now Facebook, txts, e-mail and websites enable us to spread the word directly.
I think there are interesting developments afoot re a dynamic Welsh internet-based media that will break news rather than reporting it second hand.
It's the best option to break the BBC monopoly given that Wales isn't a "market" of interest to other mainstream media.

@ Peter: I agree with most of what you say. I disagree that WAG should support a national newspaper in either language. Given the circumstances, a Welsh-language newspaper would have folded (pardon the pun) within a year due to collapsing advertising and a poor business plan reliant on subscribers.
An English-language newspaper would have been strangled at birth by Trinity Mirror.
The failure of either or both would be a huge setback for WAG and the Welsh language community.
That said, we do need a healthier Welsh media - starting with the ability to watch Welsh TV programmes here in Wrecsam!

Peter D Cox said...

Whitegate: I think that in principle there's nothing wrong in 2009 with government support of newspapers - perhaps the Arts Council of Wales, or Academi would be a hands-off way of handling the money. We support other cultural activities, S4C, and the BBC so I'm not sure that in Wales we couldn't in principle support newspapers.
My criticism of WAG and a Welsh newspaper was it's inability to see it as part of the One Wales strategy: why, for example could not a part of the funding be for every young person at school and university; bulk distribution to doctor's surgeries/hospitals/social centres etc? We have to look at new distribution models in the internet age: and not assume, btw, that Web2 is the panacea to every communications problem - it isn't.
As to Trinity Mirror: why not make them part of the deal? We've nationalised banks ....
The problems with assuming that new media will replace the purposes of a printed newspaper are legion: what status does a blog have?; who is responsible for archiving; what economic pressures moderate how it works (for good and ill)?; is it accessible to all? How do we ensure wide dissemination of a range of views?
I don't have answers.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Peter,you're right that we can over-estimate the effectiveness of the Web - as I said, it's not as flexible as newspapers in many ways (batteries don't go flat, you don't lose signal on a train, etc).
Public ownership of Trinity Mirror? Why not... the current management have screwed huge profits from the Western Mail while reducing the number of journalists to a bare minimum.

Peter D Cox said...

Public ownership of Trinity Mirror?
make it Plaid policy and I might even join .. lol

Anonymous said...

I saw the sad demise of the 'Wrexham' Evening Leader some time ago.

I don't believe it has anything to do with the internet etc, to me and to loads of other people I know, it stopped being a 'local' paper and started printing a lot of stuff about Chester and the surrounding area, if I wanted to read about Chester, I would have bought the Chronicle.

When it stopped being local, local people stopped buying it, it's that simple. It's been a while since I have seen it being delivered around my area, yet it used to be delivered to almost every household.

It's a shame really, I will miss my old local paper, but I won't miss the new one, I stopped buying it ages ago.