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Local content and multi-media approach the way forward, say editors

Regional newspaper editors have been sharing their thoughts and experiences on how best to cater for the needs of readers.

Barnsley Chronicle editor Robert Cockroft was among those on the panel for a discussion at the Society of Editors’ conference in Windermere, and told colleagues their publication was still the “local content king” – or should be.

He said the future would depend on newspapers being massively more imaginative in the way they presented the news.

Robert said: “We are looking at streaming video; the local BBC will not get as close to Barnsley as we will.”

He also revealed that the Chronicle’s biggest success story this year was a supplement called Dandy Dogs.

He said: “The readers know you are getting close to them when you don’t just visit their school and workplace, but their kennels too.”

Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson also recognised the importance of ultra-local news, and said this had been reflected in a relaunch of the newspaper two weeks ago.

He said: “We are now giving readers what they want with increasingly local content.

“We have four ultra-local pages changing seven times a day five days a week. Lets get back to basics.”

Charles McGhee, editor of the Evening Times, Glasgow, spoke of his own newspaper’s relaunch.

By applying the ‘3R’s: redesign, reposition and relaunch, it now has a more appropriate readership market to the UK’s second most popular city, with regard to demographic figures.

He said: “Window dressing is nothing without editorial excellence.

“We are focused on our core strengths, we have moved the paper into its natural market.

“After five years that is still a work in progress.”

Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan and Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks both acknowledged the consumer’s access to “multiple sources of local news”.

And Paul explained his multi-media portfolio approach, running a free distribution newspaper alongside a paid-for edition, the Internet, and city-based tv station Channel M, which sees reporters taking on a range of news gathering skills.

He also hailed the recent launch of the free MEN Lite as a success.

He said: “We need to convince readers and advertisers that our papers are relevant. It has made minimal difference to the paid for evening paper.”

John added: “We don’t want to be predictable. We don’t want to be bland. We have to attract the readers’ attention.

“But we have to do it responsibly. It’s down to this: standing still is simply not an option.”

Steve Auckland, MD of the Metro, addressed four key areas to boost circulation, and said to be successful the paper needs to have the right audience, product, location and time.

He also pointed out that the easy accessibility of the Metro allowed it to be read during the consumer’s spare time by emphasising the fact that 75 per cent of its copies were read by 9.30am.

Ed Curran, editor-in-chief of Independent News and Media, explained how the Belfast Telegraph published a broadsheet evening newspaper with much of the same content – repurposed and redesigned – in a morning compact edition.

He said the overnight stories for the next day’s evening paper were carried in the morning edition, with the news team working late into the evening with live stories for the next morning’s edition. The new content was then added to the live pages of the evening edition, tailored for its different audience.

The decision to make the switch to a two-edition structure was greatly received by some readers as the compact edition, published in a morning, was more convenient. However, others were less receptive, seeing as a unnecessary change to their paper which is a big part of their lives.

Ed told the conference: “For an important minority it is a criminal interference. It’s a product that’s part of their daily life, as much as the settee in their lounge.”