Hull Daily Mail opts for fewer stories, bigger impact

By Dominic Ponsford

The Hull Daily Mail has made radical changes aimed at attracting younger readers and making the paper easier to read.

The Northcliffe evening has ditched the high story-count strategy,
which is the received wisdom on many papers, and instead opted for one
major story per page.

Most down-page stories are now crunched
into briefs and less newsworthy briefs are either ditched or consigned
to the community news pages.

The change follows research carried
out by parent company Northcliffe among younger readers in Hull,
Nottingham, Bath and Leicester.

Readers were sent copies of the
Northcliffe dailies from their respective areas and asked to keep
diaries of their reading habits and of what other media they consumed.

Hull
Daily Mail editor John Meehan said: “Readers’ habits have changed very
substantially over the past two to three years. That’s because the
range of choices they have in terms of news and information services
have exploded in that time.

“We’ve got to realise that readers are time pressed and are selective about what they want to read.”

He
continued: “This has put a big question mark against the traditional
high story-count theory. A lot of local newspapers are based around the
more the merrier. Many stories are carried on the basis that the more
subjects are covered and the more names and faces, the more readers
you’re likely to have. This research questions that very seriously.”

Changes at the Mail, and sister title the East Riding Mail, include:

● a full digest of the whole paper’s contents on page two;

● in-short boxes on all the page leads which provide a snapshot of the story;

● web links to relevant websites;

● more breakout boxes such fact files, timelines, stats and Q&As;

● what happens next panels, interpreting or predicting the next stage in the story.

With the new look, all page leads have to be illustrated with pictures.

Meehan
said: “The aim is to have strong stories throughout the paper; there
isn’t any disposable news any more. All of the news is in the paper on
merit. The most entertaining, engaging and important stories get more
prominence than they had before.”

Meehan said the paper still had
a role in breaking news and would continue to have four editions a day,
with the latest printing at 1.15pm.

He said: “We believe in
producing newspapers which are accessible and digestible for readers,
but which are also strong on in-depth reporting and analysis. We also
believe in hard news – for the simple reason that major breaking
stories sell our newspapers.”

The Evening Mail’s ABC sales figure has dropped from 84,595 in June 2000 to 71,580 in June 2004.

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