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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 August 2006, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Western Mail selling fewer copies
Betsan Powys
Arts and media correspondent, BBC Wales

Western Mail
One theory is that online news services are hitting paper sales
Latest circulation figures have revealed that the Western Mail is now selling fewer copies than ever and has fallen under the 40,000 threshold.

The statistics suggest that competition from online news services for younger readers could be a contributory factor.

Also, the launch of the free Metro daily has hit the Mail and sister paper, the South Wales Echo - despite claims it would boost Cardiff titles.

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said both are in line with the market in general.

Meanwhile, in north Wales, The Daily Post's readership has remained steady since industry analyst ABC published the last round of circulation figures at 38,661.

"I think they are suffering in the same way as other regional newspapers around the UK," said Professor Tom O'Malley, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Wales Aberystwyth and an expert on the press in Wales.

How on earth do you have an informed choice by an electorate if people are not adequately informed about what is actually going on in their nation?
Culture Minister Alun Pugh

"Over the last 30 years we've seen a long-term decline in paid for circulation. But there has been a steady rise in the circulation of giveaways and giveaways have become more sophisticated over the years from being just ad sheets to sheets owned by large organisations with news in them."

More recently competition from online news sites has been undermining the sales of newspapers and attracting younger viewers in particular away from television news programmes. Last month Culture Minister Alun Pugh told BBC Wales he was concerned about "significant structural weaknesses" affecting not only the press in Wales but also broadcast and new media.

With only 15% of Welsh newspaper readers choosing to buy papers authored in Wales, Mr Pugh is concerned about the effect on Welsh democracy.

Regional newspapers are fairly buoyant
Professor Tom O'Malley

"It matters a great deal, not least in terms of elections," he said.

"How on earth do you have an informed choice by an electorate if people are not adequately informed about what is actually going on in their nation?

"If you're buying a London-based newspaper and your television aerial is pointing towards an English transmitter, how on earth can you be informed about what is happening in the Welsh education system, the Welsh health system or any one of dozens of policy fields that are determined here in Cardiff?"

But Professor O 'Malley is clear that regional newspapers are not about to disappear.

"Regional newspapers are fairly buoyant," he said.

"Companies are making profits, even if it is at the cost of squeezing jobs and squeezing other costs. They are not going to disappear in the near future."

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror said: "When analysing the figures it is important to note that in the same period last year Wales won the Grand Slam for the first time in over 20 years which had a dramatic effect on sales.

"When you take this into account for both the Western Mail and South Wales Echo you would see that both titles are in line with the market in general."

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