Tabloid risk pays off

By Sarah Lagan

The Belfast Telegraph has set a precedent for regional evening
newspaper publishing after posting a 0.5 per cent year-onyear
circulation increase following the launch of a tabloid morning edition
in March. This compares with a 12.9 per cent year-on-year drop a year
ago.

Editor Ed Curran said: “The evening newspaper market has been
particularly difficult in having availability across the whole area but
if you have a morning edition you can provide for those readers in the
most far-reaching areas.

“Papers have a limited shelf life and Northern Ireland is quite rural. Some might not get their copy until 5pm and the value of a morning gives readers a choice virtually from morning to night.”

The
Manchester Evening News also turned around its circulation by launching
a morning edition at the end of last year. And giving away a free Lite
edition to boost readership does not appear to have harmed its paid-for
sale.

Circulation was down 1.8 per cent year-on-year compared with a 7.4 per cent drop six months ago.

Across
the regional evening market just three papers put on actively purchased
sales year-on-year: the east edition of the Carlisle News and Star was
up 2.8 per cent to 18,610; The Belfast Telegraph up 0.5 per cent to
86,004; and the Hartlepool Mail fractionally up from 20,873 a year ago
to 20,897.

Six months ago, seven out of 82 regional evenings put on sales.

The
Evening Chronicle, Newcastle, was one of the better performing big city
papers with a slight fall of just 0.8 per cent on actively purchased
sales.

According to editor Paul Robertson, circulation was helped by improvements in its direct home delivery.

Receiving
daily sales information allowed the paper to react quickly.A dramatic
redesign at the Evening News in Norwich in January was aimed at
attracting a younger, female midmarket readership, but according to
marketing director Philip Preston, they have not come on board as
quickly as expected. The pace of circulation decline has doubled from
4.7 to 9.9 per cent. The redesign included less focus on breaking news
in the print version and the introduction of “news shots” at the start
of leads, along with a more analytical approach to news.

Preston
attributed some of the decline to Norwich City winning the Championship
last year, which boosted circulation for that period.

Comparisons
in the redesign have been drawn with The Argus in Brighton, which went
through a similar style relaunch in February 2004. Six months ago The
Argus was down 9.7 per cent year-on-year. This time it was down a
dramatic 11.1 per cent to 36,102.

Editor Michael Beard said that
looking ahead, there would be more community news in the paper, much of
which had been dropped as part of the redesign, and more coverage of
Brighton and Hove.

He said: “We want to become more closely
connected to our community and we have a number of other plans, both
internally and externally, that will address the climate we have
suffered.”

Northcliffe’s lowest selling evening title, The Bath
Chronicle, was down again by 7.2 per cent to 14,663, compared to an 8.2
per cent drop last year.

Editor David Gledhill left in June after 11 years, reportedly after resisting proposals to turn it from a daily into a weekly.

The
Lancashire Evening Post was hit with a 10.3 year-on-year decrease to
37,145. Editor Simon Reynolds said: “The sales of the LEP have been
impacted by our decision to tighten our procedures to reduce bad debts
on the direct delivered sale. The retail sales figure was Monday to
Saturday -2.0 per cent.”

According to the Doncaster Star, the stripping out of bulk sales contributed to its a 23.8 per cent decrease.

Carlisle’s
News & Star East was the fastest growing evening paper in the
country with a 2.8 per cent rise to 18,610. Figures had been split from
the West of Cumbria edition, which dropped four per cent to 7,964.

Editor
Keith Sutton, who retires in three months, put much of the success down
to bringing the first editions forward, which he claims instantly put
on sales. “Many thought it was a short term gain but we have retained
the readers, which is staggering.”

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