Herald cuts back on badnews to woo new readers

By Sarah Lagan

A top weekly paper is cutting back on grim news like crime stories
after readers said they felt depressed by the negative coverage of
their area.

The Tamworth Herald has undergone a major redesign following two
consecutive circulation falls and commissioned market research, which
included focus groups.

It revealed that readers were becoming
depressed with the Herald’s news coverage as it painted a bleak picture
of the borough. As a result there are more human-interest stories and
treatment of the negative stories is more light hearted.

A story
on the new front page is about rowdy youths but the angle the paper has
taken is how a Tamworth shop is playing “cheesy” music to drive them
away.

Editor Sam Holliday said: “There is a little more humour in
the way we deal with the stories now. Before, we as journalists were
thinking ‘marvellous, they will want to read this’ but they saw it as
though we were putting their community down. We always prided ourselves
on our hard news coverage but we need to find a better balance.”

The research showed readers also felt the paper had become too unwieldy and they couldn’t find news items very easily.

Peter
Sands of The Editorial Centre was brought in to help redesign the paper
and create more space with lighter fonts and more white space.

Lead
stories have been cut from around 450 words to 300 and must be
accompanied by photographs where possible and down page stories have
also been cut.

The paper has been sectionalised in to three parts: news, property and classified.

Holliday
said: “The layouts were dreadful before. Now when you separate the
sections, it feels more manageable and it gives us the chance to add
more supplements in the main book. This week we will break all their
records with our baby supplement making the whole paper 212 pages in
all.”

The Herald is also looking to attract younger readers. In
the latest set of ABC figures the weeklies, usually the strongest
sector in the regional press, did not perform as well as they usually
do. The Herald was down 2.6 per cent.

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