27 November 2014

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Dyson at Large: Superfluity can weaken ‘killer’ splashes

I’ve rarely made repeat visits in more than four years of writing this blog, but as soon as I’d read the Bournemouth Daily Echo on Wednesday 16 April I knew I had to review it again.

How could anyone resist its strong ‘FIND JOHN’S KILLER’ headline, its striking use of the murder victim’s black and white image, and its useful sub-heading: ‘UNSOLVED: Fiancée’s fresh appeal over 1991 murder’.

But mainly, I wanted to highlight my grouch with what was otherwise a simple, well-designed splash: the gratuitous ‘ECHO INVESTIGATES’ stamp in red above the headline.

Why? Because while there was an interesting account of Lori de Carteret’s Facebook campaign for more information about John Green’s murder, with a handy panel of recall about the case, there was nothing that warranted the word ‘investigates’.

That word suggested some kind of exposé, leading me to initially think that the Echo had reached new witnesses, uncovered fresh evidence or had been let in on some gripping detail by police investigators.

In fact, the spread on pages four and five revealed that they had investigated nothing other than a Facebook page, with the police declining any comment other than saying the case was still ‘open’ which, of course, it would be.

I make this point because papers all over the UK are too often using such tags of embellishment which can annoyingly over-promise to expectant readers, (‘EXCLUSIVE’ is another common irritator).

That said, this new appeal was still splash-worthy and a good enough read, and was joined by a selection of other decent stories including:

  • ‘No challenge to the Tory council leader’ leading page two, reporting on a threatened ‘no confidence’ vote that failed to materialise on Poole Council;
  • ‘Head injury caused man’s death in road’ leading page four, telling how a Romanian called Gheorghe Igna probably died after jumping or falling from a moving car;
  • ‘HGV ban is moving in a good direction’ leading page 12, noting a 500-plus petition against lorries travelling through Burton village; and
  • ‘Angry mum blasts water torture hell’ leading page 14, reporting on the multiple buckets needed to cope with leaks at the home of a vulnerable 27-year-old woman.

I also thought the ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’ spread was well designed on pages 18 and 19, a main headline on the lead letter giving the spread an impact that can often be lost on correspondence pages.

As in my last Echo review, I rated the space given to the ‘IN THE DOCK’ court reports on page 23, providing 11 convictions in a half page: ranging from theft to drugs offences, and from drink-driving to criminal damage.

And as with the splash, a proud use of black and white made the six-page ‘ECHOES’ nostalgia section stand out on pages 65 to 70; I particularly liked the ‘Decade of drama’ spread on local theatrical appearances over the years.

There were 200-plus stories on 36 news, features and sports pages in the main 48-page book, the paper then boosted by a 40-page ‘Location’ supplement for homes in and around Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole, Swanage, Wimborne and Blandford.

Despite the mostly sound editorial, the Bournemouth Daily Echo lost 21pc of sales in the second half of 2013, compared to the same period in the previous year, selling a daily average of 19,022.

This, of course, won’t have been helped by publisher Newsquest’s aggressive cover price policy: what was 45p an issue in 2012 became 65p in 2013, an insulting 45pc rise for recession-hit readers.

One surprise, however, is the unusual buoyancy of the Echo’s Saturday sales: at the even higher cover price of 85p (65p in 2012), its average sale was 21,580.

While, for whatever reason, this was noticeably higher than the weekday average sale, it was still a 19pc drop on the 2012 Saturday average of 26,741.

HoldtheFrontPage readers’ views on why the Echo sells more on a Saturday are welcomed; Newsquest giving local readers every reason to stop buying its papers is not.

14 Comments

  1. Kipper Tie

    A former editor of mine called it ‘anticipointment’

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  2. legaleagle, mid earth

    Big annoyance in any paper is the by line “by staff reporter” or stuff like “by Chronicle reporter”. This one always mystifies non journos!
    Don’t papers know the names of staff?
    Or is it that they are not staff at all? Probably just the dreaded user generated copy, aka utter garbage copy. (But it’s FREE).

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  3. JP stone-thrower

    Perhaps the reason why the Echo sells more on a Saturday is because it carries the week’s television as well as What’s On in Bournemouth, which will be of particular interest to the many pensioners in the area with time on their hands.
    I don’t know anybody who buys TV Times or Radio Times or whatever it’s called these days (too expensive). Is it still going?

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  4. Steerpike

    Legaleagle is quite right; it means exactly the opposite of what it says and is a crass attempt to disguise the fact that it’s agency copy. But a byline of some sort is increasingly regarded simply as a style point and not, as it was when I trained, a guerdon of honour for the creator of a well-written page lead. ‘Exclusive’ always seems faintly ridiculous, especially when tagged on to a dreary local story no one else would bother to run anyway, but again, it can add a splash of colour, relieve the monotony of the text, at least in the visual sense, or fill out a short leg when you’ve already put in as many soft returns as the paragraphs will stand.

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  5. Desker

    Staff reporter or XXX reporter is often used for court reports. O

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  6. ill-informed

    ‘JP stone-thrower’ wonders if the “TV Times or Radio Times or whatever it’s called these days” is still going, having told us that (s)he doesn’t know anybody who buys it.

    I’ve checked the ABC website and the Radio Times had an average sale in Jul-Dec 2013 in excess of 830,000 copies per issue. Here are some other circulation figures from the same period that might be of interest…

    TV Choice – 1,374,813
    What’s On TV – 1,051,129
    TV Times – 254,593

    You’re out of touch, ‘JP stone-thrower’. Out of touch.

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  7. Idle Rich

    Ha! Not for the first time, Ill-Informed crunches the numbers I just can’t be fagged to check. I was going to make the same point. Radio Times has a youngish, former Times dep ed at the helm, has a massive readership and often – often- carries exclusive content that makes national page leads. Personally I haven’t read it in decades and I don’t watch telly apart from Extras and the footie, but I keep my eyes open JP Stone Thrower.

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  8. JP stone-thrower

    Actually, Ill-informed, 254,593 is not a lot for a national magazine. Neither is 830,000 copies all that much, when you think how central TV is in most peoples’ lives. Anyway, it’s good to know that they are both thriving (maybe I was thinking of Readers Digest).
    As for Idle Rich, I’m glad to see you are fully awake at 6.10 am.
    It’s the early bird that catches the worm, as they say!

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  9. JP stone-thrower

    I’ve just spent five minutes checking the records, Ill-informed, and it’s interesting. The TV Times was selling more than three million copies per week in the UK in the 1970s while Radio Times exceeded 11 million copies with its Christmas 1988 edition.
    In the 1950s the RT regularly surpassed nine million copies sold per issue.
    Of course, there were more copyright restrictions back then on what TV and radio stuff newspapers could publish and there wasn’t the other competition we have today.
    I’d like to know if your figures include those for copies sold in the Irish Republic.

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  10. Lionel

    Gratuitous use of ‘exclusive’ always bugs me. My local paper, Cambridge News, are always doing this despite the fact they are the only paper in the city. It’s not an exclusive if no-one else cares.

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  11. Idle Rich

    Stone Thrower, you are hilarious.

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  12. ill-informed

    You ask if the figures I cited include sales in the Republic of Ireland, ‘JP stone-thrower’. Here’s a link to the ABC website…

    http://www.abc.org.uk/

    Fill yer boots!

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  13. sideliner

    Desker. Or used to disguise fact its a freelance because paper doesn’t have enough experienced staff to send. Reporters should have bylines for court, to ensure they are accountable . I have covered scores of them and never hidden behind “staff reporter “even when once threatened at a court. Its a bit soft.

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  14. old hack

    I’ve always wondered if the tag “Exclusive” ever sold a single paper, or is it just internal newspaper egotism, or more usually, irrelevant and probably inaccurate? Surely, if anything, readers buy a paper/read a story because they think it’s going go to be interesting, they don’t think “gosh I’d better buy this copy now because I won’t find out about this incident anywhere else in the known universe”

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