Express & Star: Our focus will still be on print in 2022

 

  • Executive editor Mark Drew: No plans to go weekly
  • 'Many people like to have the feel of a paper in their hands and I do not think that will change'
  • Leveson 'could stifle the spirit of local newspaper reporting'

The main focus of the UK's biggest-selling regional newspaper in ten years' time will still be on print, Express & Star executive editor Mark Drew has told the paper's readers.

The paper's commitment to print is in contrast with rival regional publisher Johnston Press, which sees its future as 'digital first'and this month converted five of its dailies into weeklies.

Drew, who has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, also said there was 'no reason to doubt'the Express & Star would ever follow Johnston's lead and become a weekly paper.

In a live Q&A with readers yesterday, Drew was asked how he thought the paper would look in 2022.

In his responses he said that while the internet was becoming a major part of the paper's news output, 'the main focus of our operation each day is the printed newspaper and I think that will be the same 10 years from now".

The paper's editor Adrian Faber admitted in March that the biggest challenge facing regional papers was making their digital operations profitable.

In January the Wolverhampton-based title announced it was scrapping its online paywall after just nine months and began rolling out paid-for apps for iPad and iPhone.

Drew said the apps had 'proved very popular'with readers and claimed the paper had 'the fastest growing online audience in the country for local newspapers".

The most recent ABC figures for web traffic put the number of daily unique browsers at 44,786 (up 32.8 per cent) and the number of monthly visitors at 788,444 (up 35.6 per cent).
Drew later noted how the Express & Star remained the only local newspaper in the country to sell more than 100,000 copies ( 104,262, according to the latest ABCs), and that 'many people like to have the feel of a paper in their hands and I do not think that will change".

He added: 'I think we will continue to explore how we can develop the internet without taking away our main focus on the printed form of the paper.'

No plans to go weekly

When asked by another reader if the paper – owned by independent publisher the Midland News Association – was ever likely to go weekly, Drew replied: 'There are certainly no plans for that.

'The E&S is the most successful daily local newspaper in the country and that success is down to offering the very latest news, printed on the day.

'Some newspapers elsewhere have gone weekly because it has been decided that they can be more profitable. The Bath Chronicle, for example, has been weekly for many years after serving the city as a daily for decades.

'The Bristol Evening Post recently decided that it would lose its Saturday edition and is now printed five days a week.

'But it is vital for an area as big as the Black Country, Staffordshire and Worcestershire to have a daily newspaper, six days a week, and there is no reason to doubt that that will ever change.'

Commenting on the Leveson Inquiry, Drew insisted that the issues raised related only to national newspapers, adding: 'Local newspapers such as the Express & Star pride themselves on their integrity.

'The issue of phone-hacking is not one that we have ever been affected by. We have good relationships with all kinds of contacts, but they are purely on a professional basis.

'The Leveson Inquiry is likely to come up with a 'beefed up' way to regulate the press. The concern of local newspapers is that, while monitoring the national press, it will be too stringent and could stifle the spirit of local newspaper reporting."

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