Courier has designs on lifting sales

The Halifax Evening Courier’s new design, including daily supplements, is ‘fresher cleaner, brighter, younger’ than its old look (top right), according to editor John Furbisher

The Evening Courier in Halifax has launched six supplements and been given a new look to help tackle declining sales.

Editor John Furbisher, who joined the Courier from the Yorkshire Post last July, said local papers had been getting a “caning” from the nationals, but he believed giving readers more than just local news and sport could help stop the sales rot.

“I personally think there’s a problem in the industry where people have been happy to look the other way when circulation figures come up and concentrated instead on the bottom line, which has been healthy,” he said.

“It’s very important for us now to see a sale that’s holding its own or getting bigger.

“Regional papers, including ours, have been getting a caning from the nationals and have not been competing in terms of added value. I’m not saying we can compete like-for-like with the nationals, but if we offer readers a bit more in terms of value and a bit more than just local news and local sport, we stand a chance of keeping more readers and winning a few back.”

In common with other regional dailies, the Courier, which is broadsheet Monday to Friday but tabloid on Saturdays, has seen a gradual sales decline in recent years. In December 1998 its ABC was 29,372; in December 2003 it was 24,894.

Furbisher describes the Johnston Press-owned title’s new look as “fresher, cleaner, brighter, younger”. Page one includes a redesigned masthead, bigger blurbs at the top of the page, all-caps splash headlines and inbrief story tasters at the bottom.

The new sections are:

Sport Today on a Monday, a 16 to 24-page full-colour tabloid pullout.
Buy & Sell Today, a tabloid, free-ads supplement on Tuesdays.
Jobs Today on Wednesdays, which includes an extra broadsheet page of employment-related editorial to lead into the job ads.
Motors Today on Thursdays, a tabloid motoring supplement with more reviews and features.
Property Today on Fridays, a broadsheet supplement including more human interest property stories.
Television Today on Saturdays, an expanded entertainments tabloid that includes cinema, pop music, computers, leisure and clubbing.

The redesign includes a slight increase in the size of body text to answer a long-standing gripe from older readers that it was too small.

On the news side, Furbisher said: “We are now more effective at investigating, campaigning and championing local issues.”

He added: “The tone of the paper is sharper with more attitude, more comment, more edge and I think people are starting to take notice of us as a paper that gets stuck in on behalf of its readers.”

Over the past six months, the Courier’s campaigns have included an investigation that led to restrictions on “irresponsible” cheap drink promotions at bars. Such drink offers had been linked to an increase in town centre crimes.

The paper has also highlighted the “forgotten tragedy” of at least 750 former workers at a local factory who have died of asbestos poisoning.

By Dominic Ponsford

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