Dead Trees Dying

It was announced this week that Komori, the world’s fourth largest printing press manufacturer, have closed their Leeds showroom:

Komori has closed its UK showroom facility in Leeds, redeploying two staff as the manufacturer centralises its demonstration and training facilities to Utrecht, Netherlands.

What’s interesting about this ( “No, seriously” assures Tiberius “There is something!”) is that it reflects the reality for print journalism – and local newspapers in particular: according to a report on Sky News last week, some of the  biggest and most established regional newspapers in the country have seen their circulations plummet over the last five years.

The report showed our own Yorkshire Evening Post as suffering a 33% drop. Indeed, the latest ABC figures would have made particularly grim reading for YEP bosses, reporting a 12 per cent fall in readership in the latter half of 2008.

Just before he stepped down last month, former chairman of Johnston Press Roger Parry used the opinion section of the Financial Times to offer an almost apocalyptic assessment of the future for regional newspapers:

Local newspapers are nearing the end of their Cretaceous era. The asteroids – recession and the internet – have landed and the K-T extinction horizon is imminent.

He also took the opportunity to offer three predictions for the state of the UK’s local newspaper industry by 2014:

total local advertising income will be less than it is today; many local daily titles will have been converted into weeklies; and the number of journalists and sales people will be down 50 per cent.

Parry then went on to paint a vivid picture of the bubble created by “classified cash”, ending with the candid assesment that:

Journalists are often busy doing things the audience no longer want. The traditional professional output is no longer valued by readers. Much, but not all, of local news gathering, feature production and photography are better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing. [emphasis enthusiastically added by Tiberius]

Such disdain for journalists probably goes some way to explaining why our local reporters and printing staff have spent so much time on strike recently (here, here, here).

Finally, Parry talks about the importance of  “local democracy and identity” and “protecting local values”, but stops some way short of saying that all these concerns will eventually come down to the bottom line.

Johnston Press are not in the business of promoting local democracy: they never have been, they never will be. They are in the business of selling local consumers’  brain space to corporations of all shapes and sizes. As a veteran of the ‘dead trees press’, Parry knows this better than anyone.

Tiberius asks: “Cheap parting shot by a retiring old fart, or prophetic warning by a man in the know: you decide!”

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