Former regional editor Neil Fowler has praised regional publisher Northcliffe Media for its strategy of turning small daily titles into “cat-killer” weeklies.
In a radio interview yesterday, Neil said other regional newspaper companies would be closely monitoring the success of the experiment, which saw the Torquay Herald Express, Exeter Express and Echo, Scunthorpe Telegraph and Lincolnshire Echo switch to weekly publication.
But Neil refused to be drawn on whether the Western Mail, which he edited from 1995-2003, would go down the same route.
Asked about the issue on BBC Radio Wales, Neil said: “One of the interesting things that happened over the summer is that Northcliffe has turned four of its daily newspapers into weekly newspapers.
“The papers are what they call a cat-killer because it’s so big when it comes through the letter box. There is lots and lots of content. They are turning themselves into good weeklies.
“Northcliffe are being quite aggressive about it, very enterprising, and it may work. If it works, I think newspaper companies around the UK are going to say, if that works, could it work for us.
“I’ve got no idea what Trinity Mirror’s plans are for the Western Mail but I would be surprised if any newspaper company isn’t looking at what Northcliffe is doing and monitoring it very very closely.”
Neil also said regional dailies such as the Mail should be charging more for content, although he did not spell out whether this should be by raising the cover price or by introducing online paywalls.
“Papers like the Western Mail have become more aggressive and that’s to be welcomed. But they have got to find ways of being brave and perhaps charging more for content,” he said.
Earlier this month he published the results of a two-year study of the decline of the regional press industry which concluded that owners had failed to plan for the future during the ‘boom years’ of the 1980s and 90s.