Morning glory for Belfast as two new daily papers enter fray

By Dominic Ponsford

Competition
in Belfast’s already hugely crowded press market is to ratchet up a
gear with the emergence of two new morning newspapers in the city in
the next fortnight.

It means that Belfast, a city roughly the
size of Liverpool, will have five morning newspapers from next month –
Liverpool has one.

Local Press Limited, which already publishes
Belfast morning daily the News Letter, plans to launch Daily View on 4
April. It is described as a lifestyleorientated newspaper which will
eschew sectarian politics in an attempt to appeal to both Catholic and
Protestant communities.

Meanwhile, established broadsheet evening
title The Belfast Telegraph is planning to launch a tabloid morning
edition within the next week.

The two new morning papers will
complete with pro-nationalist tabloid Daily Ireland, which was launched
on 1 February, and the established daily Irish News.

Former Daily
Mirror Northern Ireland editor Greg Harkin is editing Daily View, which
he described as a multimillion pound project. A team of 21 journalists
has already been assembled to work on the paper, which will be
published Monday to Friday, and there will be up to another 10 casuals.

Describing
the new paper, Harkin said: “All the other daily papers in Northern
Ireland have political view points. We think there’s a constituency out
there not being catered for.

“They are the 40 per cent of people
who don’t vote and aren’t interested in politics. It’s a new view for a
new Ireland. Northern Ireland has moved on and the politics of green
and orange is yesterday’s politics.”

Harkin said the response from advertising agencies and from reader market research had been “fantastic”.

The Daily View will be available in the greater Belfast area which has a population of 768,000.

Harkin
said the new paper would take stands on social issues, such as water
charges and traffic problems, and will also provide coverage of
celebrities and produce a variety of lifestyle-type supplements through
the week.

On the subject of Belfast’s crowded press market,
Harkin said: “I think there will be casualties, but I don’t think for a
minute it will be us.”

The Belfast Telegraph’s expected launch of
a Monday to Friday morning edition comes a month after a Saturday
morning edition was started, which is said to have boosted sales on
that day by around 30 per cent.

Editor Ed Curran said: “We’ve had
long-term plans to do what we are doing and we are not really
influenced by what anybody else is doing.”

He said the success of the Saturday morning tabloid meant he wanted to extend it to Monday to Friday as quickly as possible.

“We have not planned to change the evening paper from broadsheet format and that’s why it’s more complicated.

We
are going to be producing an edition of a newspaper in a completely
different format and it’s going to require additional resources to do
that.”

Curran admitted that politics has become less important in
Northern Ireland in recent years, but maintained that political stories
could still be the big selling point for newspapers, quoting the recent
Robert McCartney IRA murder scandal.

Mairtin O’Muilleoir,
managing director of Daily Ireland, said he believed the launch of
Daily View was a response to declining circulation in Local Press Ltd’s
other titles.

He said: “Their business plan is even if you’re
losing circulation, if you can create new titles, you can maintain or
increase advertising across the group.”

Responding to speculation
that Daily Ireland has got off to a slow start in terms of circulation
and advertising, O’Muilleoir said: “We see this as a long battle. We
are happy that we are on target in different areas, we don’t expect
this to be an overnight success story.

“Our quality of news and exclusives has won us enormous media coverage – and that’s been good for the entire group.”

● To further add to the ferment in the Belfast newspaper market, the Irish News this week relaunched as a tabloid.

The paper was previously a broadsheet, but went to mid-size Berliner format five years ago.

The
latest move was partly motivated by a decision to bring printing back
in house with the installation of a new £15m press which will have
spare capacity for contract printing.

Additions to the new-look
Irish News include what it claims is Belfast’s first home-grown
newspaper problem page, a new section on pets called Pet Sounds, a
parenting page, a new entertainment section called Scene and more women
columnists.

Belfast morning papers

FROM 4 APRIL

Daily Ireland

Pro-United
Ireland daily launched on 1 February and circulated across 12 northern
counties of Ireland, six of which are in the Republic. Owned by
Andersonstown News Group.

The Irish News

Circulation:
50,007 Broadly nationalist and circulated across NI. Just
relaunched as a tabloid . Family- owned company called Irish News
Ltd.

The Daily View

Non-sectarian daily tabloid to be launched on 4 April by Local Press Ltd which also owns the News Letter.

The News Letter

Circulation:
28,403 Broadly pro-Unionist and circulated across NI. Owned by
Local Press Ltd which also published Derry Journal and series of other
weeklies. The group was bought by venture capital group 3i from Trinity
Mirror for £46.3m in 2003.

The Belfast Telegraph

Monday
to Friday circulation: 94,540. Established broadsheet evening
title expected to launch morning edition within next week. Owned
by Independent News & Media.

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