Following one of the Birmingham Mail's worst ever sales performances, the paper's editorial director Mark Dickinson has said he would not rule out turning the evening into a morning title.
Evening newspapers across the country are switching to morning publication in a bid to improve sales and save money on distribution costs. In the last set of ABC figures the Mail's circulation plummeted by 17.5 per cent year-onyear to 75,787.
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Dickinson's comments follow a petition signed by 100 journalists at the Birmingham Post & Mail group urging the management not to turn the Mail into a morning paper. They fear it will follow the example of the Coventry Evening Telegraph, which switched to overnight printing last month, and they argue that the inability to cover late breaking "on the day" news will further harm the Mail.
Dickinson told Press Gazette: "A lot of people are using a lot of grey matter thinking about the future of local newspaper publishing and it is an emotional subject for some people. Of course we respect the fact that lots of journalists have strong feelings and a very long history with their newspapers.
"In Coventry they are looking at a new publishing model, as are a number of newspapers across the UK, and I think we have to sit down and see how it goes. We have to understand that in the wake of the worst ABCs in living memory we are under a lot of pressure in terms of newspaper circulation — as we are on revenues.
"Simply saying — as the NUJ seem to be saying — that we've just got to carry on as we are doesn't seem to be an adequate or responsible response to the problems the industry faces.
"If you looked at the ABCs, as I did very carefully, and you look at Worcester, Swansea, Swindon and those who have gone overnight — they are actually among the better performers.
When people say it is putting papers at risk and it's going to be damaging, I think we have to be very careful before we start throwing away the evidence we do have.
"No one's rushing into this — we certainly are not — which is why we don't currently have a plan for Birmingham. We are just a publishing business trying to understand the way forward."
The Worcester News was one of the first regional papers in the country to switch to morning publication and posted the best daily Monday to Friday figure in the latest set of ABCs, with a fall of only 0.9 per cent. Editor Stewart Gilbert said the paper's success was "part down to a redesign, part down to content and part down to what we have done with distribution".
Dickinson believes that the Mail as a morning title could happily exist alongside its sister morning title, The Birmingham Post, which targets the city's business community.
"The Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail are deeply different newspapers, as are all the national newspapers. They are hugely diverse in their offering and target a completely different audience."
Trinity Mirror's research shows that over three quarters of the Mail's readership receive the paper after 3.30pm.
Birmingham Post and Mail father of chapel Ben Hurst said: "The Birmingham Mail has made its name by providing top quality coverage of breaking news during the day — and we believe this is what readers want. The Post is an excellent morning paper — there is no need for two in the city."