Web-first news strategy 'boosts print sales'

Evidence from regional and national newspapers this week suggested that a “web-first” publishing strategy may boost print circulation.

In the wake of the regional press ABC circulation audit, Newsquest group editorial manager Margaret Strayton said a policy of putting stories online before they appear in the newspaper has created new readers through raised awareness.

And one year on from the Daily Telegraph ramping up its web focus it claims to have increased print edition market share by three per cent. Editor Will Lewis said he believes this is directly due to putting more content online.

Three of the five regional daily papers to have put on sales were Newsquest dailies, which have all begun uploading most news content onto their website in the past year.

Year-on-year falls at Newsquest evening papers averaged 2.2 per cent compared to the sector’s average decline of 5.6 per cent. Last year the Newsquest titles’ average circulation drop was 3.8 per cent.

Web-first has been introduced to all Newsquest’s daily papers, and there have been some surprises in terms of newspaper sales. Nine out of 14 Newsquest evening papers had either improved sales or slowed the sales decline on last year as did morning title the Northern Echo.

The Oxford Mail and Swindon Advertiser put on sales by 1.3 per and 2.4 per cent respectively while the Bolton News swung from -7.2 per cent last year to -1.7 per cent in the latest periods. The Argus in Brighton saw its circulation decline slow from -6.6 per cent last year to -0.8 per cent this year.

Strayton told Press Gazette: “It was our intention to grow sales with our web-first strategy, and it is fair to say that our websites are actually helping.

We always knew, though it often takes some time to persuade journalists in particular that a web-first strategy was not going to distract from the papers, which, of course, remains our prime concern and our bread and butter.

“News happens; it happens now. No longer can you say you have exclusives you can hold on to, because if something happens someone with a mobile phone is going to get on to the nearest paper or TV station.

“We have found we have had some huge successes with reverse publishing, particularly when there have been tragic incidences where people have been killed in car crashes or there has been a murder. We have opened up a tribute site on the website and then reverse published into papers.

“Now, for the first time in a long time, we are getting young people who are not traditional newspaper readers. They have seen something on the web and like to pick up the paper to confirm what they have seen.”

By the end of the year every Newsquest newspaper will have a web-first strategy in place.

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