Stephen Glover

However bad things may seem, the news for newspapers is good

However bad things may seem, the news for newspapers is good

As another year looms, I cannot remember such despondency in what used to be called Fleet Street. It is not just that several newspaper groups are losing money: it was ever thus. There is talk of a general decline in newspapers. Some even suggest that the written word — as it appears in a bundle of newsprint delivered to your door or picked up at a newsagent — will not last more than ten or 20 years. We are told that the Internet will tempt more and more readers, and that the young do not have the same interest in newspapers as their parents and grandparents did. The sharpest decline in readership has been in London, where almost every title has suffered, and it is adduced as a warning of what will happen in the rest of the country. In the capital, people are more frantically busy, and more drawn to the Internet and other sources of news. Some 20 per cent of the population hail from foreign climes, and seem not to have acquired the newspaper-reading habits of native Britons.

Clearly not everything is rosy, but much of the sense of malaise seems to me misplaced. Not every title has suffered over the past 12 months. Both the Times and the Independent have gained some 10 per cent over this period as a result of going tabloid. I find the tabloid Times very unsatisfactory, and the Independent is far from perfect, but in this instance it does not really matter what I think. Both titles have attracted new readers, not all of them at the expense of other papers. I freely admit I was wrong to suggest earlier in the year that the Times had made a mistake in going tabloid. The paper has plunged further downmarket, and that to me is sad, but one can hardly criticise it from a commercial point of view.

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