The Liverpool Echo has historically been the paper of the people of Liverpool. Since 1879, the paper has circulated on the city streets and, for over 135 years, it has been a readily available media source read on buses, trains, and dinner tables throughout the Merseyside metropolis. Outlasting its sister-publication, the Daily Post, in January 2014 the Echo had an estimated daily circulation of approximately 68,000. However, by January of 2015 it was under 62,000, amounting to over a 10% drop in sales year on year.

Couple this with the Liverpool Sunday Echo seeing a drop of over 38% in the same period, it's clear that less people are buying the product. As much as the rise in demand for digital media can be used to potentially explain these drops, it should be worth noting that the Manchester Evening News saw less than a 4% drop in the same period. So, undoubtedly, the question that Alistair Machray and the top brass on Old Hall Street should be asking themselves is simple… Why?

A key reason to their spiralling downfall can be linked to the paper’s unbalanced reporting of the city’s two Premier League teams. Football is in the blood of most Scousers, the thing that gets them through the week. Whether Red or Blue, the expectation has always been that the Echo would investigate and inform on behalf of its readership. It would essentially be the voice of the voiceless.

In years gone by, it has vociferously pushed for the removal of owners that the fans believed put their own interests before those of the relevant club. Peter Johnson got the treatment. More recently, Hicks and Gillett were hounded out unmercifully. Even now, FSG are being questioned because of the perceived underperformance of this season’s Liverpool team.

Yet, strangely, the current Everton board has been staunchly supported throughout its tenure – despite years of discontent amongst Evertonians. The “Bill is a Blue… be careful what you wish for” line has been trotted out as frequently as “There’s nobody investing in football clubs” — both without any real questioning. If anything, there has been a refusal from the Echo to even acknowledge the frustrations of the support base, categorising them as the ‘noisy minority’. But how realistic is this offhand dismissal?

The social media campaign Boycott The Red Echo has, at the point I am writing, over 1,850 accounts following them on Twitter within a week of launching. The slogans associated with the campaign are being daubed on walls across the city. The "Kenwright Out" account has over 2,500 followers, and independent fansites are constantly being bombarded with anti-board messages of disenchantment and dismay.

As much as the board will continue to have its supporters, as more and more facts detailing how its members are failing the club are being released into the public domain these numbers are dwindling and support for groups such as The Blue Union are growing.

The frustration and anger towards the way the board is continuing to allow the club to operate is now being extended towards the Echo because of its refusal to officially investigate why the club is being allowed to fall behind its peers. The Echo did engage in discussions recently with many of the independent fansites to try and understand the disgust and wrath towards it. Unfortunately for them, it has turned into a PR disaster.

The symposium took over a week to be released, and when put out it was apparently largely edited and censored. It appeared to expose an agenda; to hide behind supposed opinions of people content with the running of the club, under the guise of fairness, without accepting the views of supporters with the facts to prove otherwise. So once again the questions simple…. Why?

The crux of the issue centres around Trinity Mirror, the owners of the Echo, and their relationship with Everton Football Club. As well as being the provider of the club’s local paper, since 2006 Trinity Mirror have a commercial deal with Everton that entitles them to produce both the match day programme and the club’s official monthly magazine. They even published Ossie – Leon Osman’s autobiography. On top of this, Trinity Mirror bought Rippleffect in 2008. Rippleffect have been Everton’s digital agency and supplier of the club’s official online content since 2002. This clearly suggests a conflict of interest.

With a long standing commercial partnership, that also involves the club advertising in the paper and the paper being able to advertise within the ground, Trinity Mirror are unlikely to advocate the Echo biting the hand that feeds them. With Liverpool Football Club employing ProgrammeMaster Ltd to produce their print media, and only outsourcing to Rippleffect for specialist projects like improving their e-commerce site, they appear to be a easier target to upset at board level.

However, and somewhat ironically, the decision to question the ownership of Liverpool FC across the Echo’s back pages only serves to further enrage the growing frustrations amongst Everton’s fanbase. The problem that the paper has is that whilst the deal between Trinity Mirror and Everton Football Club is good for their masters, its associated caveats only serve to distance them from large sections of their intended audience. Alistair Machray, Greg O’Keeffe, Dave Prentice et al will surely be asking themselves how is it good for them?

The Liverpool Echo are at an important fork in the road that is their future. The #TellAll initiative on Twitter was promoted as a positive attempt to listen to its readers, and hence forward re-engage them by writing the stories that they want to read. Optimists will say that this is the first step towards getting the answers that people really want, agreeing with the publicity that this is ultimately their Echo. Sceptics will argue that it is too little too late; that they can’t report on the issues that really matter due to their cozy relationship with those that should be questioned. Ultimately, time will tell.

However, if ever a cautionary tale was needed, the fate of the Liverpool Daily Post should be a warning to all on Old Hall Street. If the Echo wants to survive and eventually become relevant again, it needs to seriously consider making the brave decision to investigate the issues on behalf of its readership that matter to them. In the world of digital and social media, the voiceless have found their own voice. If they are not careful, and readership continues to drop at the current rate, the Echo will soon go the same way as their now defunct sister paper...

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Reader Comments (34)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 14/06/2015 at 02:09:14
Superbly written, Chris, and very timely. Thanks so much for tackling this subject and exposing many of the sensitive issues in the wake of that very strange Symposium.

The absence of incisive reporting will be their downfall, I believe. They should be all over EvertonÂ’s decline from 5th to 11th, BarkleyÂ’s bizarre transition from exciting starlet to ridiculous back-passing marionette, LukakuÂ’s dreadful decline in form...

Matt Traynor
2 Posted 14/06/2015 at 03:53:19
ThereÂ’s a lot more than that they should be over, Michael.

Local newspapers throughout the country have had to reinvent themselves, some more successfully than others.

I don’t think the Echo is going to change it’s approach – purely for the reasons Chris describes in his article. It’s notable that the journos it employs tend to move on to national titles – not always within Trinity Mirror – within a couple of years.

Things like employing a died-in-the-wool RS fan to report on Everton news (not O’Keefe – a guy who was pictured bawling at Crystanbul last season). They treat the fanbase with contempt, and are in the pockets of the club in putting down any negative talk. I think I recall Greg O’Keefe attending one of the BU meetings at The Casa in a personal capacity – as the paper wouldn’t be reporting on it. Despite Sky having a camera crew there.

The RedEchoÂ’s on borrowed time. Away from the football, itÂ’s just pish. I really donÂ’t see why people spend ١-4 a week buying it, other than out of habit.

James Flynn
3 Posted 14/06/2015 at 06:45:10
Terrific stuff Chris. Thanks.

Certainly explains some things.

Dick Fearon
4 Posted 14/06/2015 at 08:23:50
Good on ya Chris,

As far as Everton is concerned the Echo’s credibility and lickspittle attitude is indisputable. It has allowed Kenwright and his board to get away with things it would not dare to with the Red half.

Without serious question from BK or the Echo our already well paid manager was allowed to moonlight in Brazil at precisely the time when other managers were gearing up for the new season.

The Echo accepted without question why Everton underwent its worst preseason in living memory.

The Echo did not mention nor query whether it may have resulted in our players being completely unfit for the first few months of the season.

Echo Â’expertsÂ’ were also silent while Martinez philosophy was inflicting the most boring slow moving rubbish onto spectators since the Walter Smith era.

Without question from those so called Â’expertsÂ’, Martinez spouted ridiculous mantras about possession being more important than goal attempts.

Had they two brain cells to rub together they had a duty to readers that come above paper politics.

Currently we are in a stadium bubble and the important question is whether the Echo has a prick or the gumption to burst it.

Chris, more power to your pen.

James Power
5 Posted 14/06/2015 at 08:30:21
So, ironically, given the conflicts, itÂ’s Â’Boycott the Blue EchoÂ’. Truth is, aside from the football reporting, the quality of the writing is terrible.
John Keating
6 Posted 14/06/2015 at 08:47:47
The thing is itÂ’s been like this for years. I understand that Prentice and OÂ’Keefe have a priority in keeping their jobs but surely questions with a bit more importance than Hibbo’s dog or BainesÂ’s haircut could be asked?

OK, maybe we wonÂ’t get parity with the RS but surely something more than the shit we get now.

Colin Glassar
7 Posted 14/06/2015 at 08:40:13
Excellent post, Chris. Like many of my generation, we used to buy the Echo religiously every day and the pink Echo every Saturday without fail.

For me, the Echo started to go down hill once Tommy Smith started (with Howard Kendall?) the letters section. Smith was always very abusive towards Everton and it was obvious that our complaints were being ignored. Despite writing dozens of letters to the pock-faced, lying, dirty fucker, not one of them was ever published. For me that was the beginning of the end.

Ian Smitham
8 Posted 14/06/2015 at 09:20:17
Thanks Chris, a really interesting piece.
Patrick Murphy
9 Posted 14/06/2015 at 10:38:10
The Echo has during my lifetime at least always leant towards the other side of Stanley Park, but it has become almost comical in its treatment of Everton in the last decade or so. It may well be the case that they avoid criticising our board and its woeful record because that helps to keep their favourites in the ascendancy.

They could also be doing the current board a favour because any negative campaign in the Echo would make a greater number of Evertonians question Bill and his associates and make life very difficult for the club at least in the short-term.

However, if the Echo is only adopting a sympathetic position towards the board for purely financial reasons due to the many links identified by Chris, then that is very worrying not just from an Everton perspective but from every point of view be it politically, socially or economically.

Newspapers and the media in general shouldnÂ’t be so over-focused on pandering to the largest percentile of their audience, they should be producing stories that extend its audience by giving them solid and reliable information, and the only way of doing that is to investigate and carry out proper journalism on behalf of its readership, it would be more expensive, it may even prove hazardous but if any media outlet wants to be taken seriously it has to be more than an adult version of the Beano or the Dandy.

If big business - Everton is a big business in its own city - controls and influences the media, as this article suggests it might, the population, on Merseyside at least, will not get the information they need to form a balanced and fair judgement on the club and its hierarchy and if there are any skeletons in the cupboard, it will come as a great shock to many if or when they are revealed.

Ken Buckley
10 Posted 14/06/2015 at 10:48:09
I think Chris has the reasons for the lack of venom in their reporting of things Blue spot on – they are business partners with the papers owners.

Matt Traynor has it right too when he says its been going on for years and the reason is not just the Trinity Mirror tie in. Sadly Liverpool FC are Â’THE STORYÂ’ as far as almost all media outlets are concerned.

For the Echo to do the job as outlined by the OP, then somehow fans and fan groups should somehow get the national media interested enough to run the stories that the Echo can get behind by little more than reprinting them as someone elseÂ’s work.

Getting the national media to look beyond LFC as the only football story on Merseyside is a mammoth task but maybe that is what it will take. I hope we can gain those with expertise in this area to join the effort.

UP THE BLUES.

John Keating
11 Posted 14/06/2015 at 11:12:27
Ken,

You are correct: it will take the national media to take this on.

Mind you, remember when the Blue Union was in full flow? That arsehole Samuels at the Daily Mail wrote a piece hero-worshipping Bill? Well I say he wrote it... it could well have been Bill himself!

Unfortunately the nationals canÂ’t see past Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal and the RS.

Brian Harrison
12 Posted 14/06/2015 at 11:26:44
Certainly over the last 25 years or so, the move from equally reporting on Everton and Liverpool has changed. As for this being the main reason the sales in the Echo has declined, I am not sure.

I was a regular Echo reader but stopped when they started printing the Echo in Oldham. Before the internet revolution, the Echo was the only way to keep up with local news and events as well as the football side. But now instead of it being an afternoon edition paper, you can buy it in the morning just like a national paper, so for me its lost that updated local news.

As for why we don’t get the same critical inspection of our board as the other lot, well maybe the fact that our chairman is a local boy. Whereas the other lot have what I call absentee landlords, so far easier to be critical of American owners, who wouldn’t ever read the Echo.

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 14/06/2015 at 12:43:08
Another great article, Chris, with lots of reasons why the Echo is not reporting on the real facts of why Everton will never prosper under the present management team.

I don’t blame the reporters – they have their jobs to worry about and it is down to the Echo management to sort this out. Given the facts that Chris has reported, that is not going to change.

Kevin Tully
14 Posted 14/06/2015 at 13:07:55
There is one thing the OAPs running the club absolutely excel at, that is keeping the media on-side and on-message. Ian Ross, our ex Communications Director and one-time Echo journalist, clearly had huge influence in and around the local media, and no doubt schooled Bill & Co on the finer points of spin and misdirection.

IÂ’ve always said that our owners could teach a thing or two to some of the main political parties, they are that good at manipulating the press.

HereÂ’s a starter for ten if the Echo want to ask some questions:

Why have we had four Vibrac in loans in four years?

What is Philip GreenÂ’s involvement at EFC?

Why do the board refuse to invest in their own business?

After three failed ground moves, do you actually think you can take EFC forward?

Aston Villa are due to be sold after 12 months, they said they had offers from all over the world. Is EFC really on the market, and of so, why canÂ’t you name a figure as the Aston Villa chairman did?

Why is our commercial performance so poor? Do you think Kitbag was a good deal?

Joe Beardwood basically poured scorn on your Â’business planÂ’; he stated you didnÂ’t have one!

What is the plan now WHP has fallen through?

Ged Simpson
15 Posted 14/06/2015 at 13:04:41
My email to editor. You may want to follow suit ? andrew.campbell@liverpool.com

Hi Andrew

If you or someone from the paper were to post a reply (whatever it is) your credibility would rise dramatically.

http://ToffeeWeb.com/season/14-15/comment/fan/30110.html

Regards

Phil Walling
16 Posted 14/06/2015 at 13:51:51
Kevin nails all the questions that need answering. The reality of the situation is that just like Ashley at Newcastle, our apology for a board sees Premier survival as the be-all and end-all. Everything else is pure fluff - including a new stadium.

They genuinely believe they have done and continue to do a great job. And the Echo supports that view.

Colin Glassar
17 Posted 14/06/2015 at 14:55:45
Great post KT. I wonder if Samuel got a couple of freebies to a BK production after he wrote that? I remember the piece well and it made me sick to the stomach.

These questions will never be asked until the fans start to make their voices heard. But as long as the Wizard of Oz gets a standing ovation at GP every time his fat gob appears on the big screen then no one will dare put forward these concerns.

David Ellis
19 Posted 15/06/2015 at 08:54:06
All a bit ironic that there should be a piece in ToffeeWeb on the decline of the Echo (and local print media generally) – because the main cause of the decline is websites like ToffeeWeb.

Why on earth would I look in a newspaper for information Everton where there is far more depth, knowledge and passion within these hallowed pages?

It's a challenge for print media globally. I don’t think the Echo or many local papers will survive and not many national titles will survive either. The Internet has destroyed their business model – young people (by which I mean anyone under 35) just don’t read newspapers. I don’t think my teenage kids have ever read one, and I certainly read one every day at their age.

TheyÂ’re DOOMED Captain Manwaring... DOOMED I tell yee.

Colin Glassar
20 Posted 15/06/2015 at 09:09:45
I still read all the papers David, but online. ItÂ’s been quite a while since I did buy one but if I can read them online for free itÂ’s a bit silly buying one.
Tony Ateman
22 Posted 15/06/2015 at 10:45:56
David, itÂ’s not just under-35s who donÂ’t read newspapers. This pensioner hasnÂ’t read a hard copy of a newspaper for at least 15 years.

Also, a lot of what I read online in some of the papers is utter fantasy.

Kevin Gillen
23 Posted 15/06/2015 at 11:29:32
Great post outlining the relationship between the club and the Echo.

One of the reasons why the Red Echo is bigger on supporting the Reds, however, is that they win more football matches than us. I take a look at their squad and our squad and I donÂ’t really see the reasons for this. They too are a failing brand. They couldnÂ’t hold on to Suarez or Torres and they have made a right hash of the Sterling situation. Their recruitment last year was woeful.

I accept that the relationship between the Echo and the club is going to be polite at best, thatÂ’s why I look for my news on ToffeeWeb! I donÂ’t go to the Telegraph or the Mail to read left wing propaganda any more than I would go to the Echo to read incisive critical reporting on Everton.

I agree with most of the posters above, some great questions by Kevin Tully. It is shameful that, with all the money in football, we havenÂ’t seen any progress on the Ground issue but it doesnÂ’t completely explain our lack of success on the pitch. LetÂ’s have some belief from the players and management.

Colin Glassar
24 Posted 15/06/2015 at 18:58:40
To be fair to the Telegraph, Kevin, they are one of the more accurate gossip mongerers. They have good writers as well, eg, Henry Winter.
Andy Crooks
25 Posted 15/06/2015 at 22:25:33
The decline of print journalism is lamentable, in my view. IÂ’m not talking about the Echo which I have never read.

There is nothing quite like buying a Sunday broadsheet the day after an impressive and unexpected Everton victory. Reading the main report and catching a glimpse of further comment, often in darker print, at the bottom of the right hand page. Then deciding to read the rest of the Sports section and leaving that bit to savour later.

The look from the missus as the sound of rustling pages interrupts her enjoyment of Countryfile. The internet just doesnÂ’t do it. When IÂ’m reading a proper big paper I still have, God help me, the childlike belief that I am reading the truth.

Patrick Murphy
26 Posted 16/06/2015 at 09:23:49
Andy, I think your cosy Sunday reading material is under threat as this story from the Press Gazzette / Journalism Today indicates. How the general public are supposed to find out what is going on in their local community if the regional media outlets are subject to this sort of pressure is anybody’s guess – a good time to be involved in murky business if there is no longer any will or cash to investigate those who hold positions of power in the community.

Link

Andy Crooks
27 Posted 16/06/2015 at 18:26:27
Patrick, thank you for this link. It is appalling and dismaying. I would urge everyone on ToffeeWeb to read it. Is print journalism going to end up like vinyl?

I suppose many will see me as a dinosaur harking for a dead era and the fact that IÂ’m writing this online doesnÂ’t help my argument. How about the internet providing the instant and print providing the analysis?

Brian Harrison
28 Posted 16/06/2015 at 19:05:50
I despair at the level of most of the journalists covering football. These are the same people who laud every newcomer as the next best xxxx, and then months later they are the same people asking why are these guys in the team. I used to watch the Sunday Supplement on Sky, but they only ever want to spend time talking about the top 4 and Liverpool. Most other teams are lucky if they get a mention once a month.

The only thing to come out of it for me was that 6 months back they had that Patrick Barclay on. What a smug opinionated oink he is, but they were discussing all things Liverpool and Barclay said in time I think Rodgers could become the best Liverpool manager ever. I just hope they replay it to him when Rodgers proves he is one of the worst Liverpool managers ever.

Murdo Laing
29 Posted 16/06/2015 at 19:49:11
Like you Colin (#20), I read the Echo online, but really only when I can be arsed, which ainÂ’t often. I mean, IÂ’m no web designer, but the Echo site looks cheap to me? Most annoying of all is the way that, when you go on an Everton story, a whole string of "most popular" stories appear, almost always they feature shite non-stories about the RS. ItÂ’s really annoying.

I also note that relatively few Evertonians ever post comments on the Echo, and some who do openly criticize the EchoÂ’s piss poor EFC reportage.

Excellent article Chris, a cautionary tale indeed. Gone are the days when my two elder brothers (one a Blue, one a Red) would fight over the pink echo before I got sight of the crumpled rag. (Holy Cow, IÂ’m turning in to Bill K!)

The Echo is pretty much an irrelevance these days. Other big European football cities, particularly in Spain and Italy, have gone down the line of just printing papers about their clubs, and there seemingly appears to be sustainable demand for this.

David Greenwood
30 Posted 19/06/2015 at 20:17:58
Patrick @26, that is a depressing link.
Kev Thomas
31 Posted 21/06/2015 at 18:37:34
But donÂ’t we live in a digital utopia yet? WonÂ’t citizen journalists and rolling news fill the gaps? IÂ’m fairly certain thatÂ’s what I was promised.

If you still see The Echo, even online, youÂ’ll be well used to reading about desperadoes, dog bites and Kim Kardashian wannabes. Apparently this kind of story passes for news nowadays!

Paul Burns
33 Posted 27/06/2015 at 17:43:09
ItÂ’s not just the Everton reporting which is substandard in the Echo, the whole paper has diminished into a low grade police blotter full of tedious drug and gang stories that normal, intelligent people are not interested in.

There is very little investigative effort put into local politics, development or anything that doesnÂ’t involve phony "celebrities", the Beatles or Hillsborough..

The paper's finished and the fools running it into the ground no doubt blame it all on the internet when itÂ’s their fault.

I wouldnÂ’t use it as toilet paper and the sooner it dies and is replaced by a real local newspaper, the better.

Mike Childs
34 Posted 01/07/2015 at 17:23:24
Excellent read. Thanks Chris as this certainly helps explain things to us on this side of the Atlantic.

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