Johnston Press’s flagship multimedia newsroom – the Lancashire Evening Post – has quadrupled its website readership figures while the main newspaper has actually improved its sales performance.
The Society of Editors conference heard an upbeat message from editor Simon Reynolds seven months on from the launch of a fully-integrated multimedia newsroom at the regional daily.
He said: “We’ve heard an awful lot about The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph. I’ve got five minutes to tell you about our quiet revolution in Preston over the last seven or eight months. Not only have we reinvented the newspaper in that time, we are not a newspaper any more effectively. We have been transformed into an integrated fully converged news operation.”
He revealed that currently LEP journalists are putting 500 stories a week on the site, 550 pictures and 20 pieces of video. The result, he said, has been a quadrupling in website traffic figures over last seven months to 120,000 unique users. And, crucially, he revealed that circulation performance of the print edition has improved in the second half of this year.
Reynolds revealed that one of the things the LEP experiment has proved is that there is still a public appetite for hard news. He said: “At the start of this project we held focus groups and they said they wanted more softer news, they don’t want this negative stuff. The more death and the more destruction, the more people want to read it – it works online and it works in print.”
The way the LEP covered the death in Iraq of Lancashire soldier Stephen Wright was used as an example of the way its integrated news operation works. Poignant video footage of his flag-draped coffin being carried off an RAF Hercules on a rain-soaked day was put online, provided free of charge by the MoD.
A slide show of LEP photographs showing the return of his body was also put online, with the musical accompaniment of a brass band playing Amazing Grace. And this was all in addition to regular news updates in the three editions of the paper and online.
He revealed that the soldier’s family were so impressed that they asked the LEP to turn the whole package into a DVD and CD. Reynolds said: “It meant that the local TV news didn’t do the story in the depth we did as a local paper.”