Screenshot of Enders Analysis page
Half of the UK's 1,300 regional newspapers will close in the next five years, a leading industry analyst has said.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's new inquiry into local media, Claire Enders who founded Enders Analysis in 1997 and leads the company, said that smaller, 'local community' titles are most at risk in the first wave.

In a later session, regional newspaper bosses Carolyn McCall, John Fry and Sly Bailey said they could see a future with local areas served by only one title or no printed news coverage at all.

The figure suggested by Enders was higher than that previously given in December last year, when the analyst suggested a third of UK regional titles will have closed in the period between 2002-2013.

The primary reasons for the closures will be falling advertising revenue coupled will a decline in circulation - neither of which are being replaced by digital growth, she said.

The UK's newspaper industry will suffer a 52 per cent drop in advertising revenue from 2007-2013, added Enders, who said that revenue for local media from advertising is currently declining at twice the rate of national titles.

Online is no substitute for print advertising or the printed word, Enders said.

The average reader of a regional newspaper print edition is worth £100 a year to the title in income, while the average reader of that title's website is worth £2 a year, she said.

"People are spending about five minutes a month on these websites; by comparison, people who read the newspaper spend about 12 hours a month - the websites do not substitute the printed page," she said.

Many regional and local titles have been sustained by the success of bigger titles and acquisitions within their group, in addition to restructuring and cost cutting, she added.

Enders said she was 'sceptical' about what more could be done to sustain newspapers and predicted more job losses for journalists and local businesses that are related to the production of a local newspaper.

Although she was consulted for the Digital Britain report, due out today, Enders said she was concerned the paper would be a 'government soundbite', offering more words and not action.

New media opportunities?

In her evidence, Enders said that she did not foresee further newsgathering opportunities via bloggers or non-journalists as a result of the decline in local media.
"It's not really possible to replace professional journalism, which has been honed and trained - and people who work in the press are highly trained individuals otherwise they wouldn't still be there. I'm not saying all journalists are wonderful people, but there's a particular cast of mind," she said.

Individual bloggers do not have the resources or inclination to carry out the newsgathering duties of the local press, Enders added.

"They [bloggers] are going to have to make a living during the day (...) and they won't be able to spend the time or be paid to spend the time investigating local politics or local issues, which are of extraordinary interest," she said.

"Blogs are commentaries on what is going on. They don't originate stories by and large. With very few exceptions they don't have the resources to do that."

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