Newland: why big is still beautiful

By Dominic Ponsford

Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland has revealed his fight-back
strategy against the tabloid Times/Indy and Berliner Guardian – “Stay
quality and milk everything we can out of being the last broadsheet in
the market”.

He spoke to Press Gazette before the Telegraph unveils its biggest
shake-up in 20 years on Monday – launching a separate broadsheet
business section and turning its daily sport supplement tabloid.

Newland
said: “The Telegraph had an explosion after Conrad bought it [in 1987],
the Max Hastings revolution, personnel, women’s issues, features, the
sports brand… then the paper went into a fallow period of no investment
and many little cuts, which can run a paper down.

“This is a
significant investment, the first in many years, and it shows these
owners [the Barclay brothers] are in it for the long term.”

One
Telegraph insider said that, while The Guardian and The Times have
moved towards a softer, more entertainment and features-led agenda, the
Telegraph strategy is to beef up its news, business and sport.

Pagination
will go up from the previous maximum of 48 broadsheet pages to 56, with
20 of these in colour. News, criticised in recent months for being too
thin, will go up from a level three months ago of around 12 pages to
between 18 and 22.

Newland said: “It’s not rocket
science. Given the sort of people who read us, and the sort of
people who we want to read us, there are three things they are
interested in: the “three pillars” – news, business and sport. You’ll
see a Monday to Friday product that says these things are important to
us.”

Newland refused to be drawn on the longterm question of
format for the Telegraph, a decision that will have to be made within
the next 18 months when new full-colour presses are set to be bought.

The new business section follows a hiring spree that has seen Sunday Times business editor Will Lewis poached to head it up.

BBC
business editor Jeff Randall has been recruited as editor-at-large and
Roy Greenslade has defected from The Guardian to spearhead a new weekly
media page (see page eight). Independent city editor Damian Reece will
be a senior writer, and more signings are said to be in the pipeline.

For
Newland, Monday’s relaunch signals his first chance to impose his
long-term strategy on the paper since being appointed in October 2003.
He suffered the paralysis of an eight-month sale process, which ended
with the Barclay brothers’ successful £665 million bid in June 2004,
and then a bloody round of 90 editorial cutbacks across Telegraph Group
earlier this year.

Newland said: “When I got here under Conrad it
seemed very strange to be a national quality broadsheet with your
business pages shoved rather apologetically into the back. There was
the problem with the two splashes, what’s your lead story – the one on
the back page or the one that starts the run inside?

“We had
slipped behind in the regard for our business product – it used to be
number two to the FT, and I want to put us back there at least.”

Describing
new signing Randall as “the Richard Littlejohn of business”, Newland
said the new section will signal a “change of tone” in the paper’s
business coverage.

He said: “There was no sense of joy in the
business of business – what I wanted was asection that would be written
and look like a sports section. So that you report a deal as you would
a game.

“We have a far more open attitude and approval of the
business of making money and doing it well. We are a newspaper that has
two million ABC1s who expect a reflection of what they do.”

He
described the new section as “unashamedly broadsheet, very easy to
read, with lots of entry points. It has a GQ feel to it. It’s not
simply about stock movements, it’s about a way of life in the City”.

The
daily sports tabloid, which will be an average of 24 pages, is part of
a strategy to replace the Telegraph’s famously ageing readership with
younger recruits and convert an estimated 50,000 punters who play the
Telegraph’s fantasy football game online, but don’t read the paper.

Newland
said: “One of the ways that I’m trying to capitalise on our sport
reputation is by making that sectionabsolutely and completely
accessible – to do that I’ve made it tabloid.”

He said a
reorganisation of the main news section makes it more “coherent”, with
a longer run of news pages followed by comment, a self-contained
features section, two pages of TV listings and then crosswords, games
and weather on the newly liberated back page.

Newland said of the
redesign: “If your thing is to know in five minutes what you need to
know about business and news, and have a bit of fun as well – it’s on
front and back on both of those sections – you needn’t actually open
the paper.”

He added: “It’s broadsheet, but with enough tabloid features to enable fast access and easy separability where you want it.”

Newland
revealed that there had been plans afoot to create a Guardian or
Times-style separate features section, but said: “I looked at the Times
experiment T2 and it’s never quite found its home, never quite found
its pace and certainly hasn’t found its commercial basis.”

On the
format issue he said: “We sell this much and make this much money at
the moment because we are broadsheet and carry big ads – and we carry
them increasingly in colour. We have an older influential readership
profile, 300,000 of whom are subscribers, so they have bought a year
ahead, and they like the broadsheet Telegraph.

“Our business model at the moment, which is far more successful than any other ones out there, lies in us staying the same.

“That
is what this is about – it shows we are confident, we recognise there
are areas where the value of the newspaper needs to be increased and
those areas are in the three traditional things of news, business and
sport. So we are going to give you more.”

Asked to comment on The
Guardian’s long-awaited Berliner-size relaunch last month, Newland
said: “People sometimes over-analyse their products. If you look at The
Guardian now, its a great cacophony, G2 has become like bog paper and
it hasn’t quite found its level. I think you can be overcomplicated with these things.”

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