21 August 2014

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Dyson at Large – Sex, sport and soppy celebs


I’ve always been encouraged at how regional Sundays, with comparatively meagre resources, manage to turn up the front page volume to compete with nationals on the Sabbath.

Wales on Sunday was no exception with its page one combination of sex shocker, celebrity love and Ryder Cup tales on 3 October.


‘MY FALSE RAPE CLAIM HELL’ was the splash, telling how former Swansea City favourite Lee Trundle had once faced criminal accusations that were later withdrawn.

Trundle was actually born in Liverpool, but his career with Swansea, Wrexham and Neath makes the footballer an adopted Welsh hero, his fame assisted by his former relationship with Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon (not involved in the above false allegations).

Being a regional, there’s no cash available for kiss-and-tells of course, but the skilled news desk produced Trundle’s personal take on an old story from his new book due out the following week.

Turning to a spread on pages four and five, the WoS ran a 52-par detailed excerpt on the ‘nightmare’, along with a column of panels on other highs and lows from his sex-charged career, a ‘new’ story that all Welsh dailies and various online sites carried the next day.

But if Trundle had not been around, there were other tales in the same edition that Trinity Mirror’s WoS could have led with.

‘DUFFY, MY LOVE FOR WALES RUGBY ACE PHILLIPS’ was the page one boost from an interview with the Rockferry star published on pages 22 and 23, the specific Welsh angle a new line carved out of an interview previously carried by various other papers.

And either the ‘SKIMPY SCHOOL SKIRTS GIVEN SHORT SHRIFT’ political row on page eight or the ‘OAP GROPED HIS LONELY HEART’ court report on page 14 could have given WoS a risqué enough splash on a quieter news day.

Even the other page one boost of a beaming Colin Montgomerie could have done the job if necessary, given his European team’s Ryder Cup comeback in Newport, Wales, the previous day.

As it was, WoS had all these and 86 other news and feature stories in its 60-page main book on October 3, other highlights including:

  • ‘GAVIN A BALL ON STRICTLY’ on page three, reporting Welsh Rugby pin-up Gavin Henson’s performance on Strictly Come Dancing the previous evening;

  • ‘X FACTOR DANNI’S GRAN DESIGNS’ on page 10, telling how the younger Minogue star puts her renowned fashion down to her Welsh gran’s influence; and

  • ‘SPIDER BITE NEARLY COST MY LEG’ on page 21, describing a Colwyn Bay charity worker’s African ordeal.

    For a cover price of 95p, there were also two pull-outs: a 16-page ‘Life’, made up of TV, film and leisure features and previews, seven-day TV listings and a full ‘Puzzles’ page; and a 28-page ‘Sport’, containing 69 reports, four tightly-packed pages of results, tables and race cards (sport only appeared on the back page of the main book).

    Like other regional Sundays these days, WoS has no dedicated team to conjure up this 104-page package to compete against the likes of the News of the World and Sunday Mirror every weekend.

    Instead, they largely rely on a multi-title reporting rota that also serves the six-day-a-week Western Mail and South Wales Echo, literally getting just enough man-days to fill the pages of each edition.

    If it’s anything like the team I managed in Birmingham on the same basis, the reason it works is that many staff see their Sunday shifts as a chance to excel.

    Whereas they mainly have to deliver high standards from duty diary and calls jobs for the dailies, on the Sunday they are given a little more time, a much wider geography and potentially racier, glitzier subject matters to play at national hacking.

    They know that regularly succeeding with eye-catching splashes for the regional Sunday is a very good way of silver-lining the CV and cuttings if they ever want to have a bash down in London.

    Indeed, WoS and other Sundays in multi-title centres are arguably living, breathing success stories for centralised reporting teams, with both title and staff benefiting.

    The same cannot always be said for sister dailies, however, as drawing on the same team’s story lists can result in them becoming over-laden with courts, council and public domain news, while too many tales with special, exclusive sparkles are saved for the Sunday.

    This is something that will have to be continuously balanced by current WoS editor Tim Gordon when he takes on the editorship of the South Wales Echo from next month.

    Born on 5 March 1989, Wales on Sunday is one of the most recently launched, paid-for regional titles, quickly reaching in excess of 60,000 sales by the year 2000, although this had fallen to 31,315 in the Latest ABCs, down -9.7 per cent on 2009.

  • Sex ad rating: ten out of ten. Not one in sight.

    Read Steve’s previous blog posts here

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  • Steve Dyson worked in the regional press for 20 years, editing weekly, Sunday and daily newspapers in the North East and the Midlands from 2002 until the end of 2009. To contact him, email steve.dysonmedia@googlemail.com.

    Steve’s blog is available via an RSS feed. Click here to subscribe.

  • 6 Comments

    1. Traffic Chaos

      Circulation cut in half, recycled stories and a third of page one given over to an ad. This doesn’t look good. Rather like the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham, there’s an uncomfortable air of attempting unsuccessfully to ape the real Sunday tabloids. I think the Sunday Sentinel is the only regional Sunday to attempt to go upmarket compared to the daily and that bombed too. We’re all doomed.

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    2. Traffic Chaos

      Circulation cut in half, recycled stories and a third of page one given over to an ad. This doesn’t look good. Rather like the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham, there’s an uncomfortable air of attempting unsuccessfully to ape the real Sunday tabloids. I think the Sunday Sentinel is the only regional Sunday to attempt to go upmarket compared to the daily and that bombed too. We’re all doomed.

      Report this comment

    3. Cwm Rhondda

      The only part of Wales on Sunday the public are interested in is the sports section – that is what keeps it alive – otherwise its just full of recycled celebrity drivel.

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    4. Steve Dyson

      Surely “we’re all doomed” from Traffic Chaos is a little tongue-in-cheek? And while Cwm Rhondda is right to highlight the importance of sport, it’s a must-have for, at best, only half of Sunday readers; the front page projection of spicy local celeb tittle-tattle also being important. My view, though, is that while WoS along with all regionals has obviously suffered from cutbacks upon multi-media upsurges, it still has two precious assets: 1/ an ability to spot and tell in-depth soppy/saucy celeb tales on minimum rsources; 2/ the attention of more than 30,000 newspaper addicts in Wales on the most competitive media day of the week. If it can do that in the deepest recession at a peak time of online launches and new technology, it’s a good basis for surviving healthily for the forseeable future.

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    5. Sport Hack

      Sport is “a must-have for, at best, only half of Sunday readers” – where did you pull those figures from Steve? Detailed market research, or just your own assumption? Are you assuming that roughly 50% of the readership is female and therefore are you assuming that females don’t read sport? I really doubt that recycled celebrity tales are what the readers are looking for. Even so, the two featured on the front page feature sports stars. And the third story is… a sports story. But yes, as you say, only a must-have for half of the readership.

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    6. davy gravy

      I’m not sure how WALES on Sunday would feel about being called a “regional”. Surely its a national, Wales being a country and all that? That said, it’s resources are presumably slender to say the least, but it does have the whole of a country, rather than just a region, from which to pluck its stories, which will help a little….

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