'One-size-fits-all newspaper no longer viable,' delegates told

By Sarah Lagan

The
idea that one paper can no longer fit all readers was the major theme
of the Newspaper Society’s annual circulation, editorial and promotions
conference held in Birmingham this week.

Executives from the
Evening Standard and Standard Lite and Manchester Evening News and MEN
Lite were present, along with a panel of editors discussing ways to
boost circulation. They talked through the formative stages of the new
publishing strategy of producing slimline free versions of their papers.

MEN
circulation director Julie Tattersall explained that out of the 150,000
young city centre workers in Manchester only 7,000 were buying the main
paper and only 1,500 after 4pm. The paper now distributes 10,000 easily
digestible Lites which after the first week experienced a 600 increase
in distribution.

She said: “We’ve had to break down some
long-held beliefs both internally and externally [such as] paid-fors
having greater value to the reader than frees. But value must also be
measured in terms of time given. If you don’t buy a paper it has no
value to you, if you read a Metro or an MEN Lite you are demonstrating
the product’s value.”

She disputed the belief that people wanted
to buy their evening news in the evening. She added: “They want to buy
their evening news when it’s convenient to them.”

Managing editor
at the Evening Standard Doug Wills used the case study of launching the
Metro alongside the Standard to justify the launch of a Standard Lite.

He
said: “Everyone at the paper was saying ‘why should we shoot ourselves
in the foot?’ It’s better than someone else shooting you in the groin.

The
Metro has now become the publishing success of the decade.” He said:
“It’s a gamble but a quarter of those buying the Lite said they liked
the product and were likely to buy the full edition in the future.”

The
newly appointed editorial director of the Birmingham Evening Mail
outlined research that is underway on how targeting the growing ethnic
market in Birmingham could help boost declining circulation at the
paper.

Mark Dickinson, who joined the paper three weeks ago,
described the numerous sub-divisions within the ethnic community which
amounts to 30 per cent of the population and is growing fast. He told
how the prospect of different editions could make the product more
relevant to more people and spoke of the need for niche targeting of
the ethnic community.

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