Trinity Mirror says ‘changing reader habits’ are forcing it to close Bristol newspaper

Free weekly newspaper the Bristol Observer is to close later this month as the shake-up of the local news media sector continues. The final edition will be published on November 30.

Observer owner, national newspaper and website group Trinity Mirror, said the decision to axe the title was “driven by changing reader habits and customer needs”. 

It is the latest in a string of weekly paper closures by Trinity Mirror, which acquired the Observer two years ago as part of its £220m takeover of local newspaper publisher Local World. That deal also included the Observer’s sister daily papers the Bristol Post and the Western Daily Press.

Latest ABC circulation figures, for December 2016, show the Observer – which is published in four editions covering most of Bristol – had a combined distribution of nearly 55,000 a week.

The paper was first published as The New Observer in 1965, although the Observer name had been used previously by newspaper publishers in the city.

It was split into several editions in the 1980s and had its own dedicated editorial staff until 2005 when they were transferred to roles on its sister titles or made redundant.

Since then the paper has been produced by Bristol Post journalists mainly using copy that has already appeared in that title.

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “The last edition of the Bristol Observer, a free weekly title, will be November 30. This decision is driven by changing reader habits and customer needs.

“As we grow our local online audience to new highs, readers will be able to find their local news online at or in print in the Bristol Post.No staff roles will be affected by the closure.”

The Observer’s closure comes as Bristol’s news media landscape continues to shift, with new, independent players such as The Voice stable of free monthly magazines and the Bristol 24-7 monthly news and culture magazine increasingly claiming ground from the city’s traditional titles.

Filton-based The Voice now publishes 13 titles covering most of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and parts of Somerset. The group – which says it operates at the leading edge in ‘hyperlocal’ news coverage – has expanded rapidly since its launch in 2011 by former Bristol Post assistant editor Richard Coulter and ex-Post advertising manager Emma Cooper.

While the print editions of both the Bristol Post and Western Daily Press have suffered major circulation declines over recent years, Trinity Mirror argues that readers have not been ‘lost’ but instead go to their websites for local news and information.

They claim too that their increasing use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are also bringing new, younger readers to their titles who would not otherwise engage with traditional print.

Trinity Mirror also recently downgraded its two Gloucestershire daily titles, The Echo and The Citizen to weeklies, claiming that changes in readers’ habits made them unviable over six days. The Bristol Post, once a six-days-a-week title, axed its Saturday edition several years ago.

At the time of its acquisition of Local Word, Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox said the group was “absolutely not” looking to close titles.


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