The Galway Advertiser has maintained its position as the highest circulation local newspaper in the country at a time when recently published ABC audit figures for Ireland's newspaper industry show a dramatic decline in the circulation of almost all 'paid for' newspapers, both local and national.
Out of a total of 40 individual local “paid for” papers which reported figures for December 2009, and for which year-on-year comparisons can be made, 38 showed a decline in circulation. Of the two that showed an increase, it was by a very marginal amount, from what was a very low base last year.
In what has been a continuous trend for a number of years, the fall off in sales has set alarm bells ringing for those papers for which the public must pay, in some cases as much as €2 per issue.
In recent months, paid-for newspapers and their representative groups which are threatened by the massive decline in sales, advertising, and readership have been urged to attack the concept of free newspapers, but their petty arguments have been flatly rejected by the public who feel reluctant to spend several hundred euro a year to buy local paid-for newspapers, when most of the content is available in free media such as newspapers and radio.
The fall has also been noticed by the top advertising agencies whose research has confirmed that fewer and fewer people are reading paid-for newspapers — leading to a major drop-off in advertising.
The rejection at the till of almost all Ireland’s paid-for newspapers contrasts sharply with the increasing popularity of the free titles, such as the Galway Advertiser, and its sister papers in Mayo, Athlone, Mullingar and Kilkenny.
And it is not only in the print media that the Advertiser is leading the pack. Online, the www.advertiser.ie is also leading the way in Galway where it is the most-accessed local news website, with more than twice the number of unique visitors than its nearest rival.
All eight Irish daily and Sunday newspapers showed a decline in circulation over the year, ranging from a decrease of almost one per cent for The Sunday Independent to a decrease of almost 10 per cent for The Sunday Tribune.
Industry sources have identified the popularity of papers such as the Galway Advertiser as one of the main reasons for the decline.They went so far as to suggest that newsagents do not want free newspapers in their shops, but research has shown that in Galway alone, newsagents would take twice as many copies of the Advertiser if they could, such is the demand — contrary to the claims of the paid-for newspapers representative groups who are aghast at seeing hundreds of their unsold paid-for newspapers left behind each week.
Declining circulations for local paid-for newspapers, in tandem with a significant decrease in advertising revenue, have led some to speculate that the future of the local media will rest exclusively with the free newspaper model.
In recognition of this, the London Evening Standard has recently accepted the inevitable, and after existing as a paid-for evening paper since 1859, became a free paper at the end of 2009.
Commenting on the most recent figures, Peter Timmins, managing director of The Advertiser Newspaper Group, said 2009 had been a difficult year throughout all advertising media, but the Advertiser model was now accepted as the future face of the local newspaper industry.
'Many consumers of the local press are now able to access content free of charge on the web, and are increasingly asking why they should pay for this in any form. The arrival of the present recession also has people questioning the value they get for every euro they spend. We are confident that the Galway Advertiser will continue to meet the demands of Galway's business community and satisfy the requirements of our vast readership,
"This is a year of tremendous significance for the Galway Advertiser, celebrating its fortieth birthday in April, and we are determined to continue to provide the most cost effective medium for advertising to the businesses of Galway city and county.
“All businesses are facing challenging times, and we are determined to play our role in helping to promote Galway businesses in their local areas and further afield.
“The Galway Advertiser continues to deliver the message which the business community wishes to give to the Galway public. The Advertiser wants to help businesses through these difficulties, and wants to encourage the local community to support their local businesses."
" Our job here at the Advertiser is to ensure that businesses which advertise with us get their message to the largest number of people in the most cost effective manner. We guarantee this with our huge circulation, including over 30,000 papers delivered door-to-door every Thursday, directly targeting the market businesses to which we wish to speak," Mr Timmins added.