The folly of 24 as it joins the graveyard with New Day…and regional editors continue to face print v digital dilemmas

 

24

After the demise of New Day, 24, the North’s National Newspaper has also shut after just six weeks.

 

Like most media pundits, I have no pleasure in being right that 24, the North’s National Newspaper has shut after just six weeks.

I flippantly said that not even Kiefer Sutherland could save this 24, sadly, like so many people in the newspaper industry, we wished it success, but deep down knew it had little hope.

Six weeks is not long enough to see if something will work. However, I would be more concerned about the thought processes which set the wheels in motion to launch the paper in the first place, as I was over the strange decision to launch New Day, which lasted just nine weeks.

I admire entrepreneurial spirit, but with the landscape increasingly bleak for papers in the regions, just look at the latest ABC figures, and the next batch will not look much better.

The figures suggest that the newspapers with the lowest sales have a lesser decline because there’s nowhere else to go in terms of decline, while the biggest papers just keep losing big chunks of sale.

The dilemma an editor faces today is where to put his resources. Within a company such as Trinity Mirror there is a clear digital first strategy.

Previously, I have discussed how, despite putting a brave face on it, the newspapers are taking a back seat  as TM newspapers strive to get a slice of the digital audience.

This has left many journalists at the group upset with industrial action threatened at some of the newspapers.

But the reality is that there’s a relentless move to bring in the audience and get page views at all newspapers.

Based on this the editor has to decide to whether to put all their eggs in one basket and just do digital or carry on doing the paper and hope no-one notices that digital performance is lagging behind.

Of course, you might say that editors need to do both. The reality is that with fewer staff than ever before you cannot be all things to all men.

The philosophy of digital content has shifted. In the early days, regional newspapers used to put up every story written for the newspaper, often in one bulk upload.

Things are more sophisticated now and there’s a constant flow of content with particular emphasis on key times of the day and for the digital operation, rather than throwing up as many stories as possible online, to polish fewer stories and build more content around it.

The outcome is that many of the digital stories can take time to put together. If a reporter is out live blogging from an event, or on Facebook Live, taking pictures, and sending out Tweets, the chances of doing many more stories in a day is limited.

So when the print gang turn up to produce the newspaper they may not have as much content to play with as they had in a bygone era, where story content and value for money were high on the editor’s agenda.

What I have noticed is to compensate for the drive on digital in the regions, paginations have gone down, as has story count, while at the same time the cost of buying a newspaper has risen dramatically.

While the decline in sales has been endless, the above is a recipe for a nose-dive.

But does it matter? The business is firmly placed in digital land and the newspaper is just one aspect of that.

While The Independent took a brave step to bin its paper version and go digital only, I still think that a modern media firm needs both a presence online and in paper.

At the moment the revenue from newspapers sales continues to boost the coffers of these firms, but increasing cover price will inevitably see the readers disappear.

Once this happens, a different model for print will have to be created and the once great regional beasts will probably have to consider either charging £2 a copy or going free or part free.

But, as the grip on staff numbers tightens, who is going to want to read regurgitated content in the newspaper which appeared online 12 hours earlier?

My thoughts were always to make online the first read and the paper the last read.

The Times has taken a similar stance, both in paper and online. It doesn’t published continuously unless a big story breaks. This allows the paper to print online in an edition structure and the benefit is that readers get the fuller story rather than endless snippets.

This flies in the face of just about every other news media outlet, but it is not without merit when you think about the endless content put out when a story is breaking and having to piece it all together like a jigsaw.

It is an experiment worth watching but perhaps reflects the readership of The Times, 55+, who frankly do not fancy endless news feeds.

However, we all have to remember that the paper is still the cash cow. Simply, advertisers pay pence for page impressions and the cash coming in is not enough and certainly will never reach the scale of the amount of money made by newspaper businesses in their pomp.

Finally, I was with an SEO news guru a week or so ago and they stopped me in my tracks. Passionately they spoke about how to get your news on top on the Google pile and it’s often down to the fine art of SEO headline writing.

Who were the best headline writers? Sub-editors. The expert went onto say that media groups will regret not having this much-maligned breed back in their newsrooms, surely they said, they would have been the best SEO headlines writers in the business?

Food for thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not even Kiefer Sutherland can save the north’s 24 after failure of Trinity Mirror’s New Day

Good luck to 24 – The North’s National paper. I love to see a newspaper group buck the trend and set up a newspaper as others continue to decline or close, like the poor old Grantham Target.

However, I’m a little surprised this has happened just a short time after the dramatic closure of Trinity Mirror’s New Day. On the one hand my heart wants to cheer the news of a newspaper opening, but my head just says it’s a train crash waiting to happen.

And what sort of newspaper is it? It will have an editor and two reporters bravely drafted in for however long as the paper lasts. Much of the content will be supplied by PA and the reporters will spend time giving the content a northern feel.

The newspaper, the idea of independent regional publisher CN Group, is modelled on the Metro, which also uses lots of wire content but doesn’t have a foothold in the area. The new paper will cost 40p for just 40 pages, a penny a page, while the Metro is a free pick-up based around the transport network.

According to the Press Gazette, CN’s Group chief executive Miller Hogg says that the decision to launch a new title was based on research into the distribution area and is aimed at people who “want a straight-talking newspaper which is of relevance”.

Interesting. What does ‘relevance’ mean in this case. I can only assume it means that it has stories from the north. Mr Hogg talks about covering northern football and court cases from the big northern city.

Sad to say, but not even Kiefer Sutherland can save 24 from ending up on the scrapheap.

Sad to say, but not even Kiefer Sutherland can save 24 from ending up on the scrapheap.

This is fine, but why would it work? This is a traditional format of news, bundling up stories and throwing it at the public. It is clear the public no longer want this, or to be more accurate, they don’t need to have this form of bundled news.

The public are now their own editors. They don’t sit and wait by the letterbox for a newspaper put together by an editor who has decided what they need to read.

Readers are now their own editor, they decide what news they want. Thanks to search engines they can find their specific areas of interest and don’t even look at other news out there.

For years editors fed the public with news, but the reality is that people chose what they wanted to read in a newspaper and glazed over the rest.

What the web has highlighted is that much of the news produced in a bygone era failed to register with readers, unless they had an interest in it.

This is why newspaper groups monitor to depth what they put online and if an article, video or blog brings in an audience, they add similar content to feed the audience until they have had enough.

This is part of the reason for the decline of newspapers, the idea of bundling up news and giving it to readers is out-dated.

You could argue that 24 will be read because it has its own bundle of northern news, but this will not be enough. The only saving grace is that CN is looking for at a conservative readership of 10,000, usually the breaking point where a daily becomes a weekly.

But, like the New Day, not having its own web site is a big hole in the business plan. Having said that, Google doesn’t like duplicate content and with much content coming from PA, this will be inevitable as stories are picked up by other outlets.

It is interesting to note that recent research shows that 60 per cent of those who use Twitter and Facebook rely on these social media giants to provide their news, this figure can only go up.

Similarly, Mr Hogg argues 24 is after a slice of regional and national advertising. He is in for a battle as Facebook and Twitter continue to suck up advertising, damaging traditional media income by up to 30 per cent.

I wish them well, but fear not even Kiefer Sutherland can save 24 from ending up like the New Day.

 

 

 

Should Trinity Mirror have invested in regional newspapers rather than cost-cutting and creating the doomed New Day?

Trinity Mirror's New Day has closed after nine weeks.

Trinity Mirror’s New Day has closed after nine weeks.

I feel no joy over the closure of Trinity Mirror’s New Day. Like any journalist, in these difficult days for newspapers, the opening of the paper, in the shadow of the closure of The Independent, was a little ray of sunshine.

But we all knew, didn’t we? All of us cynics felt it would never work. I was optimistic and privately said it would close after six months, so for it to fold after nine weeks even left me for dead.

In my blog discussing the launch of the New Day I said that I couldn’t understand why the paper was being opened.

There was some bizarre talk of a gap in the market and the chance to sell 200,000 copies. I said at the time was it just a case of sour grapes after TM failed to buy the i?

Who really knows what were the thoughts behind opening the paper? There have been mumblings about trying to encourage people who don’t buy a newspaper to buy this one.

How or why the great powers of Trinity Mirror thought this would work is unsure.

Figures suggest there are 4.5 billion users of mobile phones. These people are not going to spend 50p to buy their news when they can get it for free on their phone at their convenience.

What is for sure, the move to set-up a newspaper without a web site flew in the face of TM’s digital first strategy.

Of course, if it had been a success, TM chief executive Simon Fox would have been heralded, but in the cool light of day success was never on the agenda.

Some commentators have said that you have to praise innovation and at least TM tried. I agree with this philosophy but I can’t get over the fact that failure was just too obvious.

So TM splashed out £5m to advertise the new product, the campaign was poor to say the least with no-one really understanding what the product was about.

It was meant to be ‘politically neutral’ and the news agenda different to the rest of the national market, but it failed.

The design of the paper and the journalism just didn’t break new ground, watching the adverts left you scratching your head wondering who the paper was really targeting?

It is no coincidence that the closure came as the TM share price hit a three-year low on Tuesday at around 113p and ‘bounced’ back on the announcement of the closure by seven per cent, still a long way below last year’s 180p.

The National Union of Journalists has been asking for all the costs involved in the set-up and failure of the newspaper.

It also expresses concern over what will happen to the 25 editorial staff?

What we do know, as I said earlier, is that £5m was spent on advertising the New Day, so you can add on a few millions of extra cost.

At the AGM yesterday, TM bosses were shouting about the £12m ‘synergy savings’ or integration with the former Local World newspapers.

This is code for a load of staff cuts sweeping across the old Local World titles. This made me think.

Rather than spending millions on the dead duck New Day, what if that cash had been used to pour back into the local newspapers, an investment in the future rather than just slicing off costs?

Surely it would have been better to use money to help established businesses rather than create something that was always going to fail?

I maybe naïve, but it is worth a thought and it fits into the innovative, creative thinking arena as opposed to the slash and burn.

Talking of redundancies, a friend of mine rung to talk about how he was booted out of a local newspaper based on the good old skills audit.

Now the skills audit is meant to be fair…but only in fairy tales. More of that little horror story another time.