Western Mail targets the family in £750,000 revamp

A dummy page for the new-look Mail

The Western Mail, Wales’s national newspaper, relaunched this Thursday in a format editor Alan Edmunds hopes will broaden its appeal to the modern Welsh family.

So many changes have taken place in Welsh politics, the economy, its industries, even its music, over the past decade that the paper is being required to keep pace. The owner, Trinity Mirror, is investing more than £750,000 in the exercise as part of its “Biggest to Best” strategy.

“The trick,” said Edmunds, “is how to change a paper which has been going such a long time and means so much to so many people in Wales without alienating your readers.”

He has found market research an invaluable resource. Preliminary research was done before he became editor in September; dummies were then produced and taken to focus groups; a second set of dummies were then devised and again taken out for research.

Edmunds feels such a rigorous process has given the team confidence, mainly because the feedback has been so good.

The Western Mail is now aimed at a broader age range, with the family as a key component, and will reflect those indigenous changes.

It will be printed in full colour for the first time in its 133-year history after an £18m investment in a new press plant in Cardiff Bay.

The content has already been evolving, with Edmunds keen to create more points of entry for readers and to tackle stories in a way that engages them more.

“We try to relate the big issues to people more than The Western Mail had done hitherto,” he said. “We are trying to make sure The Western Mail is the family newspaper for Wales, so we are less focused on hitting a tiny niche of the market.

“It is still very much the intelligent, broadsheet, flagship paper, still the businessmen’s paper, but at the same time broadening its appeal and providing more content that will appeal to the modern Welsh family.”

Currently, The Western Mail has two editions. This will expand as the new press is embedded, with a separate edition for North Wales. The paper has reporters there and a significant sale despite competition from its sister Trinity Mirror morning, the Daily Post. Research showed readers wanted to keep alive the slogan under the masthead “Papur Cenedlaethol Cymru” – national paper for Wales.

Every day The Western Mail will have two broadsheet sections. Tabloid sport and business supplements on Monday and Wednesday have gone broadsheet and the WM magazine has become Tuesday’s second section with articles on health, beauty, shopping, careers, entertaining and entertainment and style.

Thursday has a new Appointments section plus Education Wales. Friday sees the launch of Box Office, an opinionated mix of arts and entertainment, previews, reviews and listings along with Motor Mail. The Western Mail Saturday Magazine, carrying a seven-day TV guide for Wales, and property section Welsh Homes, complete the week’s broadsheet second sections.

Columnists signed up include former Welsh rugby player Gareth Edwards for Monday’s Sport Wales; fashion designer David Emanuel, who designed the late Princess of Wales’s wedding dress, and Lowri Turner, who presents BBC1’s DIY SoS and is a fashion pundit for GMTV. An innovative column, The Pensioner, is contributed by author Elaine Morgan.

The redesign was done by the editorial team, spearheaded by designers Marc White and Mark Tattersall.

By Jean Morgan

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