North South gap in newspapers

I was very interested to read the feature in Press Gazette last week which looks at the density of local newspaper coverage across the UK. It shows that Northern Ireland is best served by the press, with 33 newspapers per million of population. Scotland comes second with 27 newspapers per million, while the comparable figure for London is just 11.

Part of the explanation for this may lie in the fact that Northern Ireland and Scotland both retain a strong sense of community, something which is not always the case in parts of London and the Home Counties. Of course, the interesting political developments over the last couple of years in both Northern Ireland and (especially) in Scotland will certainly have helped to generate a public appetite for news.

There is also the fact that Scotland in particular has a long standing thirst for the printed word. As the crime writer Ian Rankin has pointed out, even the seediest pub in any Scottish town will have a bloke sitting n the corner with a pint in one hand and a book in the other.

The figure for the North West of England, where I am based, is somewhere in the middle at 17 papers per million. Here, as in much of the rest of the country, there has been a steady pattern of local newspapers being closed, most recently with the axing by Trinity Mirror of longstanding titles such as the Crosby Herald and the Formby Times.

Overall, research shows that 181 local newspapers have closed in the UK in the last 10 years. Of the 1048 publications remaining, a worrying 93 per cent reported a fall in circulation last year.

It’s worth remembering that these figures don’t take online readers into account. Most local papers now have websites which allow people to access local news in an instant and there are also a growing number of independent news websites springing up across the country.

But, in a UK which is becoming disturbingly London centric, when it comes to local newspapers the picture seems to get healthier as you get further north!

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