Newspaper wars in Thurrock: Part Two

Editorial Comment

THURROCK COUNCIL’S Labour cabinet is set to consider the two year contract for its advertising contract at next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

For those who follow trade websites such as the Press Gazette, Journalism.co.uk and Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, the travails of newspapers around the country make for depressing reading.

Since YT opened in Sept 2008, over 200 local print newspapers have disappeared.The next step is for offices to be closed. The unions are trying their best and strikes have occurred all over the country. However bosses know that there are still hordes coming out of college keen to be journalists. They are biddable and cheap.

In many ways Thurrock is quite an anomaly: The Thurrock Gazette, The Thurrock Enquirer, Yellow Advertiser, BBC all report on the news in the borough and the nationals (private Alex Stringer) keep their eye on what is and always will be a rich quarry of news.

A year ago, Thurrock Council awarded their advertising contract to the Billericay-based Enquirer series from under the noses of the Thurrock Gazette. (parent company based in Virginia)

Four years ago, that contract was estimated to be worth approx £350k per annum. The Enquirer won the contract for a reported £130k.

Since then, the Gazette has played hardball with the council and its Labour rulers. The question is whether Labour and the council can afford to have 50,000 newspapers being distributed around the borough, giving them a hard time?

Newsquest profits increased in 2010. It appears that their shareholders are happy. Advertisers still flock to the TG. Remember, the least important people are the journalists.The stories are simply there for breathing space between the adverts.

One wonders as to what would happen if they made an offer so low, just to ensure the Enquirer did not get it?

Ironically, many believe that the council hoped that the Gazette would raise its game. It appears the reverse has happened, spending too much time taking pot shots at the Enquirer.

Although this is a procurement exercise, you can’t help but get the feeling that the council compare the energy and commitment to the borough of Neil Speight and co. with the invisibility and low-wattage of the Gazette team.

YT believes that if the TG lose the contract it is not to do with the iron law of economics but the diplomatic law regarding attitude problems.

That is something the Newsquest bosses at Weybridge may want to consider. Or not.

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