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How newspapers attract and retain readers

The latest ABC figures are out and show a mixture of circulation increases and falls among the regional press.

Many have shown falls for the first six months of this year, but what have regional newspapers been doing to attract and retain readers?

The editors have their say:

Western Mail (up 4.1 per cent), Alan Edmunds: “Clearly, the move to compact has been key. No doubt about that at all. 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.

“We were very clearly told by readers that the paper needed to modernise to reflect the way Wales had changed. The fact we have a new £18m full colour press facility has also helped us to do that.”

Carlisle News and Star, East Edition (up three per cent), Keith Sutton: “Much of the success is down to the News & Star being a local paper, with real local news, reflecting local people’s issues.

“At the time of the flood in January, not only did our paper fully cover the disaster as it happened and its consequences, we also provided a support service for local people … which readers had said were very special to them.”

Liverpool Daily Post (up 2.4 per cent), Mark Thomas: “There have been so many changes to the paper it is difficult to pick out the most important. But there was a dramatic redesign, the launch of several new editorial supplements and a large increase in the number of pages. The broad aim of the relaunch was to target ABC1 readers, and to combat a lingering perception identified in research in 2002 that the paper was old-fashioned.

“While our reinvention involved the whole newspaper operation – including a promotional and distributional drive – it was exceptional journalism that was at the heart of our success.”

Aberdeen Press and Journal (down 2.7 per cent), Derek Tucker: “The reason for the success of our Saturday edition (up 0.1 per cent) is very straightforward.

“In August of last year we changed our Saturday edition to compact format and in December we followed that up by launching a seven day TV listings guide in the supplement. The increase is directly related to these changes.”

Ulster News Letter (up 1.9 per cent), Austin Hunter: “The package of beefed up news, features and sport with its improved design is seriously good.

“We have re-discovered our roots politically in the Unionist community providing a platform for debate within Unionism, which has and continues to generate a great response from our readers.”

Paisley Daily Express (up 0.5 per cent), Gordon Bury: “If you want to know what’s going on in Paisley you read the Express, it’s as simple as that. However, nobody just grants us this position. It’s got to be worked on day-in, day-out.

“We’ve broken the big local stories and we’ve fought the campaigns. But we’re also there taking pictures when kids are ‘graduating’ from their nursery groups. I think the people of Paisley respect us for that and know they can trust us.”

Belfast Telegraph (up 1.8 per cent), Edmund Curran: “We have launched two major initiatives over the past six months. In February we relaunched the Saturday edition in compact format, expanding it substantially with added features, news and sport.

“We also introduced a new early bird edition of the newspaper, which is printed over night. So we simply changed the whole Saturday production and that has paid off in the Saturday sale.”

Newcastle Evening Chronicle (up 0.2 per cent), Paul Robertson: “We’ve achieved an increase by being relentless in making the Chronicle about real people. We’ve upped our game on direct home delivery and we shape our content to our target market.

“We have focused marketing activity to ensure our promotions reflect and enhance the Chronicle brand. We get daily sales information which enables us to react quickly and has helped strengthen the vital editorial/newspaper sales relationship.”

Hartlepool Mail (no change), Paul Napier said: “I’m pleased that the team at the Mail has been successful in producing a newspaper that people want to buy. People in and around Hartlepool and Peterlee believe very much that the Mail is their paper – we keep them informed, we make them smile and we stick up for them.

“The launch of an extra edition of the Hartlepool Mail to serve Peterlee last year has gone down well. In launching the Peterlee Mail, we didn’t put the paper into any outlet not already selling the Mail, but created a paper that more successfully met readers’ wishes for increased local content.”

Gloucestershire Echo (down 1.7 per cent), Anita Syvret: “We’ve had a great year and there were several contributory factors. First, our supplement of community news and pictures (The Voice) took the Saturday figure soaring (up 3.6 per cent). Then we launched a new Saturday magazine which improved the figure even further. And finally, we’ve got a brilliant newspaper sales team – the best I’ve ever worked with.

“It may be customary for editors to take the credit when the figure’s good, and blame the sales people when it’s down. But this was truly a joint effort between a news team that knows what it’s doing and a sales team that believes in the product.”

Manchester Evening News (down 2.6 per cent), Julie Tattersall, circulation director: “The acceptance of the morning edition of the newspaper by readers has been universal and we look forward to developing its sale with the news trade in the future.

“Equally pleasing for me though, is the huge success of the Lite edition of the newspaper. Our recent research shows that we are reaching an 80 per cent ABC1 profile audience with the new edition, whilst causing little or no cannibalisation of the core MEN sale.”

Guernsey Press (no change), Richard Digard: “We focus on the issues that concern our readers and have lifted our feature content to provide a good read daily.

“That has been appreciated by readers and the feedback, particularly from the business community, has been to maintain the pressure. We have — and gratifyingly seen the benefit in sales.”

Wales on Sunday (up 7.4 per cent), Tim Gordon: “I’m just absolutely delighted for everyone here. This team is a brilliant group of people who have grafted really hard and displayed creativity, passion and commitment to the paper in equal measure. It’s a pleasure to work alongside them everyday.

“The Sunday marketplace is one of the toughest around and that’s why we can’t allow ourselves to stand still. This paper is always evolving and we know we have even more work to do to make it even more relevant to our readers.”

Sentinel Sunday (up 3.5 per cent), Sean Dooley: “It’s just a case of people becoming aware that it’s up and running and available. The more people get to know it and see it, the more they like it.

“We concentrate very heavily on sports coverage from the weekend, which is unrivalled across the region. We also feature reflective, investigative reports, which are winning lots of readers.”

  • All figures here are Monday to Friday unless otherwise stated.

    Click here to read what weekly newspaper editors had to say…