Sands hopes to inspire love and devotion in new female readers

 By
Dominic Ponsford Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands this weekend
unveils a £2m relaunch that includes dropping the black gothic masthead
and launching two magazine supplements.

She told Press Gazette
she wants to take readers from the “downmarket” Sunday Times and from a
Mail on Sunday which she says is anti-women.

After taking over
from Dominic Lawson in June, Sands has overhauled the paper in a
strategy that she characterises as “same staff, totally different
papers”.

After having formerly been deputy editor of The Daily
Telegraph since 1996, most recently in charge of the Saturday edition,
she believes Sunday readers want less “padding” in their papers.

She
says: “People are pretty busy on a Sunday – that’s when they go out and
see friends and family and so on and you don’t have the luxury of
assuming that they’ll wade through a whole lot of stuff.

“It has to be very, very good and arresting and it has to be essential.”

She
added: “When I wake up on Sunday, I want news and I want intelligent
comment that tells me what I need to know for the week ahead, rather
than the week that’s gone. Saturday is a nice end of the week, Sunday
much more alert, much more a preparatory day.

“People don’t want
lots of throwaway sections. I see people picking up the paper, shaking
it out, keeping two or three bits and the rest goes. We want to work
out what they are keeping and what they really want.

News, sport and city – and then pleasure reads in the evening.

“At
the end of the evening you want something restful to look at that’s
very intelligent, but very attractive. I want to create a monopoly on
bathtime reading.”

“The loveliest thing on the market”

This is where Sands’ biggest innovations come in.

The
old Sunday Telegraph Magazine has been scrapped and replaced with
Stella, an up-market women’s glossy. The old broadsheet review section
has gone to be replaced by Seven, a review and listings magazine that
also includes games, gadgets, cars, book reviews and essays.

Sands describes Stella as “just the loveliest thing on the market” and as having “top magazine production values”.

She adds: “Nothing can be in there that doesn’t make you gasp ‘it’s so lovely’.”

Describing
the two magazines as the flagships of the relaunch, she says: “They are
both much better quality, better paper, better production. People want
something that’s durable that they can keep for the train on Monday
morning.

“This is really stuff that will last all week. Both
these could have an independent cover price on the newsstands and I
think they’d sell.”

The rest of the paper has been give a
redesign throughout, which includes bigger body type, a new headline
font that resembles that used in The Guardian Berliner and a blue
masthead (which is a return to the paper’s original 1961 titlepiece).

Sands
said: “During the week you want something mighty, strong and confident
looking – on Sundays you want something a bit more elegant, you’re
looking at it in a different way.”

She added: “The strength of
the paper is its quality, rather than just mindless quantity, and to
concentrate on what we do best: news, sport and then women – that
perhaps wasn’t one of our strengths before.”

As for her Sunday
rivals, she says: “Throwing a lot of half-baked journalism at [readers]
just for the sake of increasing size just won’t do any more… I don’t
think more is better any more on a Sunday. They used to think ‘that’s
good value’. Now they think ‘I haven’t got any time and it’s not good
enough for me to have to waste my time on it’.

“I want them to read The Sunday Telegraph because they love it, not because they think it’s just a habit.”

The
female factor Sands says a lot of Sunday newspaper sales are now driven
by women, for instance in supermarkets and petrol stations, and she
hopes the new-look paper will appeal to this “floating constituency”

who are “educated and interested in current affairs, but also want things that are great to look at”.

Sands
plays down the fact that she is the first woman editor of a Telegraph
title, saying “a good story is a good story whether you are male or
female”.

And she rejects claims that the news agenda of the paper has softened under her leadership.

She
says: “I don’t know where that comes from. It’s madness. News is the
dynamic for everything. I’m very keen that everyone’s out of the
office, that stories are followed, that people are on doorsteps, that
there’s a real sense of a newspaper and that it’s not enough just to
copy out a few surveys and bung in a picture of Cameron Diaz and that’s
a story. I want to trace events and break stories.”

Sands says
she wants to position the paper at “the high end of the market” and
take sales from The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times.

In
recent years Sunday Telegraph sales have been steady at around the
700,000 mark, compared with 2,344,834 for the MoS and 1,375,972 for the
Sunday Times.

Sands says she wants The Sunday Telegraph to appeal
to readers who want something “more intelligent than The Mail on Sunday
and perhaps a bit more sympathetic to women” and she criticises “this
constant thing the Mail has of making women feel very unhappy about
themselves”.

She says that The Sunday Times has gone downmarket
in “quite a subtle way”, saying: “There’s a lot in it you think is not
quite good enough really. The thinking is there’s an awful lot of it
and we’re The Sunday Times, so that will do… what you find is people
are buying it, but with no great affection or enthusiasm.

“And I
think what we could provide is that – I really want people to love the
paper. It’s not enough to buy it – you have to love it as well.”

SARAH SANDS

IN HER OWN WORDS

On staying broadsheet versus tabloid “Papers that don’t have to worry about making profits are starting from a different logic.

If
you’re doing what’s basically vanity publishing, you can do it in
whatever shape you like. Commercially it makes sense to be broadsheet.
Advertisers don’t like tabloids – it is a fashion.”

Her perfect journalist “Intelligent. They have to be alert and they have to work very hard, come up with stories.

I prefer the ones that don’t complain.”

Her
ideal Sunday Telegraph story “Politics is still the most exciting thing
– big compulsive political events are still the most exciting to me.
Otherwise I do have a fondness for soldiers and actresses.

Sunday
Telegraph values “I’m more low-church Conservative than previous Sunday
Telegraph editors. If I had to give it a romantic slogan I think it
would be courage and freedom – you’re not wingeing, not feeling sorry
for yourself and you take responsibility for your actions.”

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