Upmarket morning papers show the way to boost sales

By Dominic Ponsford

In contrast to the evening market, the UK’s generally more upmarket
regional mornings are showing signs of an upturn since six months ago.
Four out of 16 put on sales year-on-year, compared with just two last
time around.

The winners were the Cardiff-based Western Mail, up 3.1 per cent to
45,867; the Liverpool Daily Post, up 1.3 per cent to 19,928; the
Paisley Daily Express, up 0.8 per cent to 11,228; and the Belfastbased
News Letter, up 1.1 per cent.

The Western Mail attributes its
expanding circulation to the decision to shrink the format from
broadsheet to tabloid at the end of last year.

Editor Alan
Edmunds said: “A lot of energy and thought went into an exhaustive
programme of research, product development and marketing to deliver
these positive results. Clearly, the move to compact has been key, but
it has been accompanied by a whole host of content and other product
enhancements that have also been well received by readers and
advertisers. Wewere very clearly told by readers that the paper needed
to modernise to reflect the way Wales had changed. The new £18m full
colour press facility has also helped us to do that.

“There was a
strong sense in the research that the paper’s emotional bond with
readers had weakened, so we have worked hard to strengthen that and add
a lot more Welsh passion and fun. The renewed success of the Welsh
rugby team has certainly helped us.”

The Liverpool Daily Post has
continued to put on sales since a radical upmarket relaunch in February
last year, which included the introduction of a ten-strong team of
tricycle-riding vendors. Acting editor Mark Thomas said: “Our team led
the way in covering major issues of huge importance to our region in
2004, including the collapse of one of the centre pieces of the city’s
planned Capital of Culture programme, an iconic new ‘Fourth Grace’
building to be constructed on the waterfront.

“The Daily Post
provided in-depth and sensitive coverage of Liverpool man Ken Bigley’s
abduction and eventual murder in Iraq, a tragic story that had a
bizarre sequel when Boris Johnson’s Spectator attacked Liverpool for
being ‘hooked on grief’. The Daily Post responded with an open letter
to the Tory MP and editor, who then made a personal visit to Liverpool
to apologise.

One of our most dramatic exclusives of the year
came when we received a suicide note from parents Bill and Wendy
Ainscow, posted minutes before they walked into the sea off Tenerife in
despair at the continuing lack of support they were receiving in
dealing with their daughter Lisa, who suffered from a compulsive
disorder which led to crippling spending sprees. Wendy survived, but
her husband died.”

At first glance, the Birmingham Post looks to
have greatly improved its performance, with just a two per cent yearon-
year drop compared with a massive 23.4 per cent plunge six months ago.

But
there has also been an increase in the number of give-away bulk copies
which count towards its ABC total and it has gone from being 94.5 per
cent actively-purchased to just 82.5 per cent real sales.

The
performance of the News Letter is remarkable considering the heated
competition the Belfast market has seen over the last six months. It
has had to contend with the launch of a morning edition of The Belfast
Telegraph and the short-lived cross community morning title Daily View,
which closed after just five weeks in May.

Editor Austin Hunter
said: “We have re-discovered our roots politically in the Unionist
community, providing a platform for debate within Unionism. We have ten
full time regional reporters.”

The other established Belfast
morning title, the broadly nationalist Irish News, has taken a limited
circulation hit following the launch of pro-United Ireland paper Daily
Ireland in February.

It has gone from a steady 50,000 sale to a 3.6 per cent drop at 48,276.

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