Split edition Sadvertiser hit by 44% circulation crash

Circulation of the Croydon Advertiser has nose-dived by more than 40 per cent in just 12 months, according to independently audited figures published today.

Will the Sadvertiser’s editor be making the coffee for each of his readers personally?

The paper’s sales bill last week said “Free cup of coffee for every reader”. Judging by the latest audited circulation figures for the Sadvertiser, the way things are going it won’t be very long before the paper’s Redhill-based editor will be able to make the cups of coffee for each reader personally.

Sales of the Sadvertiser‘s 65p Croydon edition have fallen to barely 8,000 each week, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations released today.

Even more troublesome for the paper’s owners – Northcliffe Media, a subsidiary of the group that owns the Daily Mail – is the year-on-year 44 per cent drop in overall circulation figures, including all the free papers thrust into letter boxes in the affluent south of the borough. This suggests that the paper is now so bad, you cannot even give it away.

The January to July 2012 circulation figures published by the independent ABC show total distribution – paid-for and free – at

43,082.

This is down from

77,548

for a similar period in 2011.

Given that Croydon has been at the centre of a major worldwide news story – the 8/8 riots – over the past year, this may be seen as a massive vote of no confidence in the newspaper’s editorial offering.

This is the sort of news coverage that is seeing readers desert the Sadvertiser in their thousands

And with circulation falls will follow a drop off in advertising revenue for the paper, the business’s lifeblood.

There remains some speculations, based on accounts from inside sources, that last year’s retreat from headquarter offices in the borough, where the Advertiser had been proud to be based since it was founded in 1869, to cheaper, shared premises away from its traditional home was the only alternative to closure of the title.

The weekly product is now managed from Redhill, it is sub-edited at a Northcliffe Media “hub” based in Essex, and its sports editor is based in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. A sort of not-so-local paper.

It seems that the “strategy” to go part paid-for (if you live in the less-well-off neighbourhoods to the north of the borough) and part-free (in the south), introduced in September 2010, has also failed.

“There’s been a whole series of bad decisions made by the management which undermine the paper, week-in, week-out,” one source familiar with the business said today.

Perhaps the paper is just going through a bad spell

With its split editions, editorially the Redhill Sadvertiser tends to the schizophrenic, as a recent Friday demonstrated. Although the paper was a week late with the news of the discovery of the body of Tia Sharpe, the 12-year-old New Addington schoolgirl, the paper’s coverage of the circumstances surrounding the police search was deemed fit for front-page treatment in the “northern” editions only.

Down in Purley and Coulsdon, the front-page splash was a piece of month-old stale political rumour-mongering about the possibility that Boris Johnson might one day stand for election as the MP for Croydon South.

Are the people of the south of Croydon really so detached from New Addington that such a local story with national reach as Tia Sharpe is of no interest to them?

Some local newspapers were today taking consolation from an increase in their online advertising revenues. It remains to be seen whether the Sadvertiser‘s reluctant approach to its website will see digital sales shore up its declining print editions.

It is not just the Sadvertiser among our local newspapers that appears to be in some decline, though. The free local Guardian was the first to scarper to cheaper offices outside Croydon.

This year, the Croydon Guardian has lost some of its most precious resources: its experienced journalists. Matthew Knowles, its respected editor, had his final day last week before taking up an appointment on a regional title in south Wales. Before his departure, three other senior staff had left, two of them – newsman Mike Didymus and sports editor Graham Moody – despite not having a new job to move on to.

And that, you fear, speaks volumes about the state of the local newspaper business.

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4 Responses to Split edition Sadvertiser hit by 44% circulation crash

  1. How sad. A great local newspaper, generally regarded within the trade as one of the best titles in the London area – a good training ground for national newspaper, radio and television journalism – reduced to the status of an also-ran free-sheet.
    When the Ad finally folds, and that day cannot surely be long delayed, I suspect its passing will not be much mourned by the people of Croydon whom it now consistently fails to serve.
    You cannot hope to run a newspaper covering a busy south London borough – possibly the most vibrant news patch south of the river – from a quaint country town in Surrey.

  2. ndavies144 says:

    The writing has been on the wall ever since Northcliffe got hold of it, changed the format and took it plummeting down market a few years ago.

    Interesting that you say free distribution is concentrated in the south of the borough. In our corner of Coulsdon it is far from being a regular visitor, and we have to rely on web offering most of the time.

    And the web version is as pisspoor as it gets. A couple of days ago the three top news stories were:

    someone stealing a vibrator from Ann Summers;
    a mock outrage piece about a wrongly shelved book in Waterstones;
    and most bizarrely an advertorial by a visiting card printers in Leicestershire.

    If this really is the best they can manage they may as well give up now.

  3. I had no idea that such a high proportion of copies are delivered free.

    It would be interesting to know if the free copies are significantly different, with less pages.

    And why are they delivered in certain parts of the borough and not others?

    Presumably few people will buy a copy in areas that get the free edition, so it’s a confusing distribution strategy.

    • There are two main editions: one for the south (and including Caterham, which is not even in Croydon) and one for the north part of the borough.

      The editions are the same size, with key pages altered – so there’ll be a different front page lead, the letters pages are different, but with displaced content re-configured elsewhere.

      Free distribution is restricted to the southern areas, but has not been consistent, according to anecdotal reports from residents (an age old problem in any case).

      Obviously, where the paper is available free, sales fall off – the Sutton edition, which is freely distributed, sells less than 200 copies each week, for instance.

      You ask why they are delivered in certain parts of the borough and not others. It was a decision taken by management which was questioned by some staff. It smacks of a “re-positioning”, but it was also done when borough-wide sales had fallen to a historic low of less than 12,000: by distributing 70,000 free copies each week, they could shore up their advertising business.

      That “strategy”, if you can call it that, looks to be in considerable trouble when the print run and distribution falls below 50,000 in such a short time.

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