Written evidence submitted by The Association
of News Retailing
1. The Association of News Retailing (ANR)
welcomes the opportunity to comment on the future of local and
2. Local and regional publications form
an important part of ANR members' sales and in many of our members'
shops local titles can often outsell national newspapers.
3. ANR represents the news industry interest
of Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) which is the campaigning
voice of more than 33,500 local shops.
4. Membership of ACS/ANR comprises both
retailers and suppliers, and the organisation prides itself on
its ability to garner information and knowledge from the sector
as a whole. This is then used to provide insight and practical
help to benefit all members.
5. Membership consists of: independent community
retailers; symbol group retailers such as Spar, Costcutter, Musgrave;
multiple retailers such as Mills News, GT News and the Co-op.
(Appendix 1 contains a full list of ANR members).
6. ANR supports the need for a strong and
vibrant local press as a means of ensuring that the community
are able to play an active part in local democracy, not least
holding their local representatives to account.
7. Local newspapers also engender a sense
of community belonging with local news, including announcements
such as births, deaths, marriages that can create a necessary
social cohesion that benefits the whole community.
8. But even as supporters of local press
we would dispute the need for a relaxation of merger regulations
as we believe that a reduction in competition would not be in
the consumers interest.
9. Creating regional newspapers groups would
undermine the very purpose of local newspapers, for instance their
local content, local and regional news is not the same and we
have concerns that such cost efficiency measures would potentially
harm local news.
10. A regional title even with local content
would be a poor version of a local newspaper and an even poorer
version of a national newspaper.
11. We recognise how important the internet
is to many members of the community, but it should be remembered
that there are large sections of the population that do not use,
or do not have access to, the internet and rely on local newspapers
as their primary source for local information.
12. With the rise of the internet has come
an increase in plagiarism and copy right infringement and this
issue needs to be looked at in more detail to ensure that not
only journalistic integrity is protected, but that journalist
and publishers continue to receive adequate remuneration for the
work that they do.
13. It is often the case that local journalism
can act as the spark for many nationally covered stories, both
online and in national newspapers.
14. The internet is often blamed for damaging
newspaper sales by providing the news free of change, and this
is often blamed for undervaluing the news and damaging both national
and local newspaper sales.
15. It is in no ones interest to ignore
technological progress and for good or bad the internet is here
to stay together with a generation that sees the internet as a
necessary interaction platform.
16. If local newspapers are to thrive then
they need to engage with the technological generation for if they
do not, no amount of internet or broadband tax will generate readers,
indeed it will just postpone the inevitable.
17. One way to engage the interest of the
young is to provide free local newspaper vouchers to schools for
their pupils, and to include them in the education progress, for
instance as part of English lessons.
18. But, the internet is not the only freely
available news source. Possibly even worse than free to access
websites, is free newspapers, as these are an even more direct
substitute to paid for titles, given away both national and locally
by the very same publishers that produce the paid for titles.
19. The one thing both these events have
managed to do is to create a consumer expectation that information,
including the news, can be obtained for free.
20. Free newspapers also remove much needed
revenue from community retailers threatening their existence and
further damaging social cohesion.
21. There is no doubt that newspapers made
a fundamental error when they set up their websites making them
free to use, but there is also no doubt that giving away the news
in the form of free newspapers has also had an adverse impact
on newspaper sales.
22. Everyday in London the Metro alone gives
away 735,712 free newspapers, and in the regions there are
a further 599,288 copies are given away
is it any wonder then that many people have given up the habit
of purchasing a newspaper.
23. Some publishers have even taken their
paid for titles and converted them to free publications, removing
them from the newsstand, offsetting the loss of cover price income
with the increase in advertising revenue. This was fine when advertising
was buoyant but as ad revenues decline the titles are suffering.
Had they remained paid for they would now have a dual income stream
to rely on.
24. News International has recognised the
need to charge for its online content with other publishers looking
to follow suit. Newspaper publishers should also recognise the
cannibalistic effect that their own free newspapers have on the
paid for copy and look at reversing this trend.
25. The practice operated by many local
councils of producing their own in-house newspaper/magazine has
had a detrimental affect on the local press. Not only do they
remove a valuable income source, when the council needs to present
the community with information, notices etc they also compete
for advertising income unfairly depriving local publications of
much need income.
26. Not only does this practice badly undermined
the local press but it does a major disservice to the local community.
27. These publications sing the virtues
of the local authority/council in a very biased way. Instead of
giving a measured and unbiased account of the actions of the authority
they are often no more than propaganda sheets dressed up to look
like an independent publication.
28. Councils should not be allowed to set
up their own community newspaper; they should be legally obliged
to use independent local media sources to communicate with the
electorate. If the message cannot stand the scrutiny of local
reporters, then maybe it's the message that should be changed
not the method of delivery.
29. Local publishers should look to utilise
the existing national newspaper wholesale network when considering
their distribution process. These wholesalers, Smiths News and
Menzies Distribution, in effect cover the entire country and there
are obvious copy management and distribution synergies to be had
through, supply monitoring and allocation, delivery and returns
30. Local and regional publishers should
focus on the core activities surrounding the publication of newspapers,
and contract out none core activities such as distribution to,
for instance, the national newspaper wholesalers.
31. We have to decide what is important
to us as a community and create or amend existing models to enable
us to achieve these desired aims.
32. If it is believed that local newspapers
are an important part of community life, then new readers need
to be encouraged to read them, what better place to do this than
33. Community representatives, for instances
local councils, also need to do their part and not compete with,
but use, local newspapers.
34. Free newspapers damage the paid for
copy by creating a culture of expectation that will undermine
any chance of selling newspapers. Fine in a booming economy but
sustainable in the longer-term.
35. Before any form of financial support
is given to publishers these issues need to be addressed.
ANR MEMBERSHIP JULY 2009
|Member ||Store numbers
|The Local (FQR)||252|
|Budgens Local (Musgrave)||187
|Select & Save ||77
|Esso on the run ||355
|Park Garage Group||85
|Garage Watch (Various brands)||400
|Spar Forecourt ||617|
|Other Forecourt ||150
|Wine Fair ||34|
|Wine Cellar ||172|
|Total membership ||33,479
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