Bristol Evening Post axes more jobs and closes Saturday edition while Venue mag is shut

April 13, 2012

The Bristol Evening Post is to axe 20 jobs and close its Saturday edition as it continues to seek cost cuts against a background of tumbling circulation. Venue magazine is also being killed off as a printed title, becoming a 'digital only' product.

The National Union of Journalists described the moves as “awful news” for the people of Bristol and called on management at publisher Bristol News and Media (BNM) to make efforts to minimise the impact of the job cuts.

BNM is owned by Northcliffe, the London-based regional newspaper division of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

The paper is also being renamed The Post from next week, having not been an evening newspaper for the past three years since it switched to being been printed in the morning.

The paper also has not been printed in Bristol since the presses at Temple Way were closed several years ago. It is now printed in Oxfordshire along with Northcliffe's other West titles.

BNM publisher Alan Renwick said in a statement: “We have undertaken an exhaustive review of our portfolio and the changing needs of readers and advertisers in our market.

“These planned changes give us a more focused and flexible set of publications which are much more closely aligned to our customers and give us a better platform for future growth.”

It is understood that 20 editorial positions out of a total of 56 at the Post are at risk of redundancy as a result of the proposed changes. The Post NUJ chapel (workplace branch) met at lunchtime amid fears from members that the latest cuts herald a move to turn the paper into a weekly. One union member said the plans announced today show a 'bumper' edition of the Post would be produced every Friday with those printed between Monday and Thursday having far less content.

Union members are also alarmed at plans to give all Post photographers freelance contracts rather than keep them on the payroll.

A one-month consultation period has now started with the NUJ over the job cuts.

The most recent audited circulation figures for the Post, covering the six months to December 2011, show a 9.2% fall to 36,262. Sales of the Post have fallen far faster than the national average for regional newspapers – a fact the NUJ says is linked to major cuts of editorial staff over the past seven years leading to an inferior product.

In 2009 Northcliffe axed around 45 editorial jobs at the Post and its sister paper the Western Daily Press, after cutting 36 journalists when it largely merged the two Bristol-based dailies in 2005. The Post sold well above 50,000 copies a day as recently as 2007. Northcliffe's South West Business magazine has also recently been axed as a standalone publication.

Paul Breeden, chair of the Bristol branch of the National Union of Journalists, told BBC Radio Bristol this morning that it was “awful news” for the people of Bristol.

“This wasn’t on the cards and it is a great shock. It’s bad news for all the journalists at the Post and for the people of Bristol who depend on the Post,” he said.

“The editor Mike Norton has said he would listen seriously to proposals made by the NUJ and we will be putting forward plans to try to save jobs.”

Meanwhile the review and listings magazine Venue, first published in 1982, is to become a ‘digital-only’ product.

Hundreds of readers protested in February last year when Northcliffe announced plans to close the magazine, claiming it had no future due to a fall off in buyers and advertisers.

Following the outcry – and record sales of the ‘final’ edition –  Venue was merged into Northcliffe’s existing monthly giveaway lifestyle title Folio, retaining its distinctive title page and non-traditional journalistic style. Northcliffe trumpeted ‘saving’ the title, claiming it had listened to the readers.

However, today it announced the May edition of Folio will be the past to include Venue although Folio itself will remain as a stand-alone monthly.

Venue’s website will continue to operate and its listings and review content will be used in the Friday edition of the Bristol Evening Post, the Bristol Observer and the local edition of Metro. Venue’s publishing director Dave Higgitt will leave the business next month, said Northcliffe, the regional newspaper division of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

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