Paper cuts

Five Highland newspapers cease print publication

Highland News
End of a print era for the Highland News

Five loss-making Scottish newspapers will not longer be published in print as readers switch to digital alternatives.

Highland News & Media said print versions of the Highland News, North Star, Turriff Advertiser, Inverurie Advertiser and Ellon Advertiser will cease from the end of this year.

The Highland News will be incorporated into the Inverness Courier, and the North Star into the Ross-shire Journal.  The other titles will close, with content published on the Grampian Online website.

One job will be lost in the Turriff newsroom, while two full-time equivalent roles are anticipated to be lost in its sales support team.

HNM publishing director Steve Barron told staff: “Highland News & Media is transitioning to what will eventually be a fully digital publishing model. But print remains important, and we will treat it with professionalism and care.”

He said more than 10% of the company’s readers are now opting for digital subscriptions instead of printed newspapers. About 50,000 have become registered users and 20,000 have signed up to receive email newsletters.

He added: “The challenge is to accelerate these numbers whilst responsibly managing our print brands.

“There is undoubtedly a strong appetite for the content we publish – we can see that from the success we have had in acquiring digital subscribers – but to reach our ambitious goals we need to put even more focus on our readers’ digital experience.

“Not only are the titles mentioned above unprofitable, they also swallow an enormous amount of resources and focus which would be better deployed to our digital platforms.

“In the Inverness newsroom there will be no reduction of the current headcount. Anticipating this change in strategy, and therefore taking a decision not to fill any vacancies throughout the summer, means we are able to avoid any editorial redundancies directly associated with this change.

“In the Turriff newsroom I anticipate a reduction of one role. This is necessary due to removing the requirement to layout and curate three titles each week.

“In the sales support department I anticipate a reduction of two full time equivalent roles.

“This reduction is necessary due to a downturn in classified advertising, fewer incoming enquiries, as well as the decision to reduce the number of titles we publish and the associated reduction in workload.

“A consultation process has begun with affected employees and whilst they can’t be ruled out, we will work to try to avoid compulsory redundancies by considering redeployment, voluntary redundancies and vacancy management.”

HNM recently revealed across-the-board cover price increases for its print portfolio.

ABC figures for 2021, the most recent available, showed that the Highland News had an average circulation of 853 and the North Star’s stood at 533. No data was available for the other titles affected.

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