UK regional newspapers

There are about 1,500 regional newspapers in the UK. This page covers historical groups and mergers since about 2000. Has links to the sites of some parent companies, from which there are links to individual papers. The page concentrates on paid titles. Subjects covered are:
Top 20 regional dailies in 2004
  Title Owner Circulation
1 Evening Standard (London) Associated Newspapers Ltd (Daily Mail and Gen. Trust) 361,340
2 Express and Star
(West Midlands)
West Midlands Express & Star Group 157,783
3 Manchester Evening News Manchester Evening News Ltd (Guardian group/Trinity/Reach) 141,737
4 Liverpool Echo Liverpool Daily Post and Echo (Reach) 129,681
5 Birmingham Evening Mail Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd (Reach) 96,143
6 Belfast Telegraph Belfast Telegraph Newspapers 94,544
7 Evening Times (Glasgow) Newsquest (Herald and Times) 91,613
8 Evening Chronicle (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Newcastle Chronicle & Journal Ltd 89,074
9 Aberdeen Press & Journal Aberdeen Journals Ltd (DC Thomson) 87,858
10 Leicester Mercury Leicester Mercury Group Ltd 84,419
11 Dundee Courier & Advertiser DC Thomson & Co Ltd 81,002
12 Shropshire Star Shropshire Newspapers 79,460
13 The Herald (Glasgow) Newsquest (Herald and Times) 78,746
14 The Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent) Staffordshire Sentinel Newspapers Ltd 73,210
15 Nottingham Evening Post Nottingham Post Group Ltd 72,269
16 Eastern Daily Press (Norwich) Archant 71,095
17 Yorkshire Evening Post (Leeds) Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd 68,635
18 Evening News (Edinburgh) Scotsman Publications 63,771
19 Sheffield Star 62,623
20 News & Sports Mail (Portsmouth) 60,663
Source: The Newspaper Society/ABC

Regional newspaper groups: history

There are 21 provincial newspapers still published that were founded before 1776. Berrow's Worcester Journal (around 1690) and the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury (around 1695) are the oldest. These pre-date the surviving national papers, the Times (1785) and the Observer (1791). In absolute terms the oldest paper is the London Gazette (1665). Belfast's News Letter dates from 1737 and the specialist daily for the shipping industry, Lloyd's List, from 1734 (online only since 2014). The British Library has extensive newspaper collection dating back to 1620.

Regional newspapers since the 1990s

The 1990s saw re-structuring. Reed and Pearson sold their interests in regional papers, which were seen as unfashionable and being under threat from internet-based advertising. However, the sector was seen to turn around with three of the biggest, Trinity, Northcliffe and Newsquest, working together to set up websites under the 'This is ... ' brand; Trinity took over national Mirror group in September 1999; further rationalisation (eg Johnston taking over Portsmouth and Sunderland in May 1999, then going bust in late 2017 to become PJI Media; Gannett buying Newsquest; Newsquest buying Newscom; fight over RIM); and aggressive co-operative marketing through advertising campaigns, online marketing and CD-Roms for campaign planning from Northcliffe. Investors in the Newsquest buy-out were offered a 66% return on their investment within four years with the June 1999 approach by USA Today group Gannett, the largest in the US by circulation. In 2011, five regional daily titles switched to weekly.

Johnston Press and Trinity drove consolidation in the 2000s as the industry declined. The government's Cairncross review of 2019 found that heavy cuts to newsrooms had damaged the democratic process. The pandemic of 2020 saw a revival of local readerships as more people worked from home and developed an interest in local news. Regional papers began recruiting journalists for the first time in years. However, the problem they faced was that the profit margins in online publishing were far lower than for print equivalents. However, with ecommerce during the pandemic encouraging digital advertising, after big falls for a decade, the industry saw hope.

Regional groups: online strategy

As online readership grew during the Covid lockdowns, Reach (formerly Trinity), the largest regional news publisher, scrapped its strategy of online questionnaires that had to be completed before using its sites. Instead, it encouraged readers to register with their email address or postcode, valuable data for advertisers. US-owned Newsquest concentrated on paywalls. Before the pandemic it had just five paywalls, but 65 out of 160 titles were behind a paywall by 2023. A typical monthly subscription cost £4.99 but the bigger Newsquest papers charged up to £9.99.

In the mid-1990s, three of the biggest groups, Trinity, Northcliffe and Newsquest, developed a co-operative strategy after initially setting up their own sites for individual papers. For example, the Newsquest title the Watford Observer had its own site, but this was later subsumed into This is Hertfordshire, although it later separated off again. Groups of local papers set up under the This is ... brand. An overall gateway This is Britain was established (since closed; the link goes to the Daily Mail). This is Local London covers the greater London area as a set of 25 towns, a 'family of digital communities', from Bromley to Watford. Backing these up were advertising gateways under the AdHunter banner launched in 1997:

  • Find It, a database of 1.8 million businesses
  • Job Hunter
  • Auction Hunter
  • Auto Hunter
  • Property Hunter
In October 1999, the main classified sites were relaunched under the 'Fish4' brand. This was led by six regional newspaper groups: Newsquest, Northcliffe, Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group Regional Newspapers, Regional Independent Media, and Bristol United Press. Nine other groups were involved: Newscom, Jersey Evening Post, Guernsey Evening Press, Tindle, Cumbrian, Kent Messenger, Johnston Press, Tweeddale Press and Associated Newspapers (London Evening Standard). The sites aggregated classified advertising from about 800 daily and weekly regional newspapers:
  • fish4cars database of used cars
  • fish4homes started with 30,000 properties in seven regions
  • fish4it search engine of 1.4 million businesses (since closed)
  • fish4jobs 50,000 jobs drawn from the member newspapers
This is Britain (which had been a .com address) was relaunched as to act as a gateway linking to the 60-plus 'This is …' sites, though this has since closed.
Overall advertising sales were managed by Real Media. To improve regionals' image, a spring 2000 advertising campaign in the marketing press promoted the results of a report on the future of regional papers, called Now, and a website, Perspectives (since closed). This also contained links to a digital artwork delivery service, AdFast.

Profiles of top 10 regional groups

Archant (formerly Eastern Counties Newspaper Group) – now Newsquest Based in Norwich. Had four daily and 50 titles when bought by Newsquest in 2022. These included the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich Evening News, Ipswich Star and East Anglian Daily Times, and titles in London, Kent, and south-west England. Two years before, it had been bought by a private investment firm after going into administration. In March 2002 Eastern Counties changed its name to Archant to reflect its geographic scope and magazine portfolio. Bought Home Counties group in 1998.

Associated Newspapers (DMG Media subsidiary) Sold London's Evening Standard to Russian businessman and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev in 2009 and the title was relaunched as a free newspaper. DMG Media retained daily freesheet Metro, 'the world's most-read free newspaper'. Subsidiary of Daily Mail and General Trust plc

DC Thomson Based in Dundee. Founded in 1905 and famed for papers such as the Sunday Post and the Press and Journal (1747), Scots magazine, and comics such as the Beano (founded in 1938). It is the only newspaper group still with an office on Fleet Street.

Guardian Media Group plc Regional newspaper division of Guardian Media Group sold to Trinity Media in 2010. Owned Manchester Evening News, Manchester Metro News, City Life and 40 other paid-for and free titles in Berkshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Surrey. Plus 25 local websites. Had quarter share of Fish4. In 2010, Guardian Media Group sold its regional media group, consisting of 32 titles, to Trinity Mirror for £45 million.

JPI Media (was Johnston Press; now National World) National World bought JPI Media, publisher of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post in December 2019. JPI had been set up in 2018 to take over the assets of Johnston Press, which had become the fourth-biggest group in May 1999. In 2005, Johnston Press bought Scotsman Publications from the Barclay Brothers for £160m. Had 200+ titles all over the UK. Based in Edinburgh

Local World (now Reach) In 2012, Local World, a new local media business, was announced by David Montgomery, former chief executive of publishers Mecom and Mirror Group. The group was created from the newspapers and websites of Northcliffe Media and Iliffe News and Media. In 2015, the group was bought by Trinity Mirror (now Reach).

Midland News Association Ltd (MNA Media) Comprises Express & Star Ltd in Wolverhampton with 11 papers, led by the daily West Midlands Express & Star, the UK's biggest-selling regional daily, and Shropshire Newspapers Ltd in Telford with 7 papers, including the daily Shropshire Star. MNA is part of the Claverley Group, which owns daily newspapers in the Channel Islands, as well as Precision Colour Printing and print management and design companies. The head office is in Wolverhampton.

Mirror Group Regional Newspapers (now Reach) Mirror Group was taken over by Trinity, which, in turn, became Reach plc. MGRN was a top five company with 44 papers, including Midland Independent Newspapers (Birmingham Post and Mail) and Northern Ireland's number two title, the News Letter

Newsquest Top-five group formed in September 1995 through management buy-outs of papers from Reed and Pearson (Westminster Press) funded by US investors Cinven and KRR. Bought up by US group Gannett Co, Inc (owner of the only national US daily, USA Today) in June 1999 with offer of £904m. Bought Newscom in 2000 and Glasgow's Herald and Evening Times in 2002 from SMG.

Newsquest site profiles the group's 20+ titles (includes Northern Echo, where Harold Evans made his name, Oxford Mail and Brighton Evening Argus). Runs regional web sites under the This is... brand. The first covered Lancashire in June 1995:

Gannett, based outside Washington, in the US state of Virginia, publishes 74 daily papers, including USA Today; owns 21 TV stations; and has cable interests in three states. It is one of the top newspaper groups in the world by circulation (with Murdoch's News Corporation).

National World Acquisition vehicle of former Mirror Group chief David Montgomery. Describes itself in 2023 as 'Focused on reinvigorating national news publishing' with a strategy of 'Transformation through acquisition and partnership to create shareholder value.' In January 2021, National World made its first acquisition, National World Publishing (formerly JPI Media). Its 13 regional and city dailies included the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, Portsmouth News and Sheffield Star, and Northern Ireland titles including The Newsletter and the Derry Journal. Montgomery had previously set up Local World and sold out to Reach in 2015.

Northcliffe Newspapers, now Reach One of the top five with 110 titles (17 dailies). Controlled by Daily Mail and General Trust plc. Runs 13 community sites under the This is ... banner with others being developed in partnership with Newsquest and Trinity. Was accessed through This is Britain portal.

Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers (later Johnston)

Bought by Johnston Press in May 1999 for £245m. Publishes 23 titles. Four are dailies: Portsmouth News, Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail and South Shields Gazette. Founded in mid-1800s. Also owns 200 grocery stores. Formerly under the control of the Storey family

Reed Newspapers (later Johnston)

Acquired by Newsquest

Regional Independent Media (later Johnston) Bought by Johnston in April 2002. Owned 102 regional papers centred on Yorkshire, such as the Yorkshire Post (founded in 1754 as Leeds Intelligencer) and Sheffield Star. Formed in February 1997 when United News & Media sold the papers to the venture capital company Candover for £360 million. Based in Leeds

Scotsman Publications Ltd (later Johnston Press) Bought in 2005 from the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings Ltd (profile) by Johnston Press. Publishes The Scotsman (which has a free archive of the period 1817 to 1920), the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday (launched August 7, 1988) from Edinburgh

Reach plc (was Trinity Mirror) UK's largest newspaper group since Trinity (then the largest regional group) took over the Mirror Group in September 1999. Has 240 local and regional newspapers, including the Liverpool Echo. Doubled in size from its Liverpool base when it bought Thomson regionals for £327 million in 1995. Also took over Scottish and Universal in 1992 for £43 million. In 2010, Trinity Mirror bought GMG Regional Media, publisher of 32 titles, from Guardian Media Group for £44.8 million. Head office in London, registered in Chester. In 2015, Trinity Mirror bought Local World. In February 2016, announced launch of a national weekday paper: The New Day, 'which will run to 40 pages every day, will be printed on high quality news print and be visually striking. It will be available for free from over 40,000 retailers on its first day, Monday 29 February, and then will trial at 25p for two weeks before retailing at 50p after that.' Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple of months.

Related newspaper bodies

ABC ( Audit Bureau of Circulations. Founded 1931. Audits newspaper and magazine sales and website traffic; verifies free publications (VFD). Free registration

All Media Scotland portal for journalists and media

Newspapers at the British Library Holds 34,000 titles from the UK and overseas as 60 million individual issues. Has newspaper history and other resources. Digitised newspapers can be viewed only with a paid personal subscription.

Newsmedia Association Represents regional and national newspapers in the UK. Formed by the merger of the Newspaper Society and the Newspaper Publishers Association in 2014. Has a history of the British press

NRS National Readership Survey. Measures readership (as opposed to sales) of major papers and magazines. Yearly survey asks 38,000+ people about their reading habits. Covers 232 national newspapers and magazines and 12 regional papers

Newspaper Society See Newsmedia Association. Founded in 1836. Represents 1,400 UK regional newspapers

Local Media Works Search local media titles in Great Britain by geographic location

JICREG Joint industry Currency for Regional Media Research database covers 520 local daily and weekly brands

Scottish Newspaper Society Represents half of the 164 newspapers in Scotland. Scotland’s oldest daily newspaper is The Press & Journal, established in 1748; its youngest is The National, launched in 2014

Newsworks Marketing body for the UK’s national newspapers. Stakeholders are Guardian News and Media, Independent Print, Evening Standard, Mail Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, News UK and Telegraph Media Group. Good source of industry data