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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 11:36 GMT
Local newspaper group up for sale
Coventry Telegraph press
The Coventry Telegraph recently became a morning paper
One of the UK's largest newspaper groups has announced it is to sell off its Midlands regional titles after a continuing drop in sales.

Midland Newspapers, part of the Trinity Mirror group, is made up of more than 30 titles in the West Mids, Warks, Staffs, Derbys, Northants and Leics.

Trinity Mirror revamped the Birmingham Mail last year but the newspaper has seen a 17% fall in circulation.

A media expert said advertising revenue was "leaking away" to online rivals.

The Birmingham Sports Argus closed in May after a century and the average net circulation figures for the six months between January and June 2005 and this year show Sunday Mercury sales have fallen by 12%.

There will always be a demand for local news and the best local papers will survive
Professor Mick Temple, Staffordshire University

In a statement, the group, which also owns the Daily Mirror, said it planned to sell its regional titles in the Midlands, London and the South East as well as the Racing Post after a four-month review of its business.

Mick Temple, a professor of politics and journalism at Staffordshire University, told BBC News that local newspapers had not met the challenge of a new online environment.

"Generally, it's a very uncertain market and people are reluctant to buy local papers.

"The main concern is advertising, it's leaking away because of online advertising.

Birmingham Mail 17.5%
Birmingham Post 9.9%
Sunday Mercury 12%
Coventry Telegraph 6.8%

"Their news sites are light on video content, slow and cumbersome - they have to now be available on a multi-media platform.

"There will always be a demand for local news and the best local papers will survive."

Sales figures from Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) of the Birmingham Mail between January and June 2005 and the same time this year have fallen by almost 20,000 to 75,787, despite the relaunch in October 2005.

'Left to rot'

Last December, plans to cut 60 jobs at the Coventry Telegraph newspaper were revealed, amid strikes by journalists over pay and conditions, which was followed by a relaunch of the title.

The relaunch followed a drop in sales from 55,384 to 51, 636, according to ABC figures.

The Sunday Mercury's sales are down to 61,053 from 69,375 and the Birmingham Post sales figures are down 10%, to 12,550.

In May, the last edition of the Saturday pink paper, the Sports Argus, was produced, with the loss of two jobs, due to falling circulation.

A spokesman for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the paper, which supplied sports fans with news, results and match reports on a Saturday evening, had been "left slowly to rot".

In light of falling advertising revenue, some newspaper groups have been buying online classified advert websites.

Shake-up plan at Trinity Mirror
14 Dec 06 |  Business
Newspaper to shut after a century
13 Apr 06 |  West Midlands
Newspaper group to cut 70 posts
12 Apr 06 |  Shropshire
Newspaper announces 64 job losses
09 Dec 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Trinity Mirror boosts online unit
02 Sep 05 |  Business

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