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Dyson at Large: The business of selling daily online news

Fresh, energetic, useful, enterprising and bold.

These are the five positive words I’ve decided to use to describe Business Daily, the online page-turning tablet launched last week by the Birmingham Post.

But in case you think I’ve been too easily won over, here are five less enthusiastic words I initially grappled with when assessing the downloaded app on my iPad.

Repackaged, corny, light, expensive and risky.

Fresh or repackaged? The clean design feels bright, and with a short lead and two sticks on most pages the content comes across as punchy and refreshing.

However, there’s not much original material: a little analysis reveals most stories also appear on the same day in competing online business media – with several used at least a day before reaching Business Daily.

For example, the ‘Trade update points to strong progress’ story that led page five of Business Daily on 4 June was a St Modwen results report first sent out by on 3 June.

And the ‘Computer group set to meet challenges’ story that led page 5 of Business Daily on 6 June was a Sanderson results story first sent out by on 5 June.

Meanwhile, ‘MP steps in after factory sale puts 300 Dunlop roles under threat’, the main page one headline and page six lead in Business Daily’s launch edition of 3 June, was based on Jack Dromey’s website quotes from 30 May, which popular media such as ITV Central used the same day.

Further dissection shows that some content was simply repackaged from Post stablemates.

For example, a whole page is devoted to ‘Residential property of the day’ in Business Daily – but the apartment block in a former church on 3 June and the cottage made from railway carriages on 4 June were both prominently used in the Post’s Property pull-out on 30 May.

Despite this, the skilled gathering and reshaping of relevant daily news into one easy-to-read package could be seen as a valuable service for business audiences in a rush.

Energetic or corny? I was engaged by the data analysis pages, for example: ‘Who’s got the top jobs’ on 3 June, ‘Average A-road peak hour speeds’ on 4 June and ‘Where we’re working’ on 7 June.

This section uses interesting pie charts, accessible map stats and geographic percentages to tell new, thought-provoking stories in several different ways.

But the water cooler graphic filling the centre of the ‘Gossip’ page contained quite slender content – and this daily image, adorned by snapshots of local PR teams next to, er, their water coolers, felt cliquey and tiresome within a week.

Useful or light? The Business Daily offers a five-page section of ‘Leads and deals’, which is worthwhile content.

These are effectively business nibs on new contracts, tenders, jobs and administrations, mainly two or three pars of previously published material and so only a light taste of what’s available in more depth elsewhere.

But this provides a useful summary of at-a-glance opportunities – and could be enhanced with direct links to the longer reports or original files.

Even more practical is the What’s On listings spread with a ‘tap here’ function taking you to an interactive booking page on the Post’s main website.

I’m less persuaded by Business Daily’s ‘One picture, one page’ section: a full page image of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on 3 June, and of Coronation flags in London’s Regent Street on 4 June describes what I mean.

Business Daily should surely concentrate on city, finance and industry, not the latest celebrity sensations or Royal celebrations.

Enterprising or expensive? The return to daily publishing by the weekly Post was exciting, evidence that new technology, used properly, can interest and engage by being practical and different.

I downloaded the tablet fully expecting to spend £9.99 – and I suspect many others would have done the same, if only for month one – because of the desire to know what it’s all about.

But what could have been an enterprising start was potentially thwarted by what turned out to be an unexplained freebie.

The App Store listed the tablet as ‘free’, and suddenly there it was – on my screen for nil pounds, nil pence, with no suggestion of any future financial commitment.

A polite enquiry direct to Trinity Mirror revealed this was a ’30-day free trial period’, but many users will not have asked and won’t know this is temporary.

This might be justified by maximising initial sign-ups, but how will users react when the unannounced trial ends with ‘what you’ve just had for nowt will now cost a tenner a month’ – especially if they notice how much content is available elsewhere for nothing?

The saving grace might be what I’ve already highlighted as the useful collection of news and data of interest to the business audience.

The Post might say: “Who cares that a lot is recycled? It’s at least recent, and we will present a convenient package of the most informative for you every day.”

If that works – and it might – then there may well be subscriptions on top of, or at least instead of, spending £1.50 a week on the Post’s weekly printed edition.

‘On top of’ will be an extra £99 a year per user buying 12 months at a time; even ‘instead of’ will be just over £20 of new annual revenue if a reader stops buying the weekly paper.

And for me, Business Daily is so different to the printed Post’s longer read that I don’t think readers will necessarily stop reading the newspaper.

Bold or risky? In many ways, the Birmingham Post had nothing to lose.

Whatever you thought of its printed edition since going weekly, it failed to capture the market, sales tumbling to just 5,393 – frighteningly low for a city the size of Birmingham – and online competitors nibbling away at advertising revenue.

Assuming there are enough tablet-users out there, Business Daily could reinvigorate the fading Post brand, creating new revenues through reader subscriptions and advertising space on newspaper-styled pages that are arguably more sellable than ‘traditional’ online ads.

The main risk is as highlighted above: giving it away for 30-days before charging may mean fewer readers take up paid subscriptions once the novelty wears off.

But with little more than a struggling weekly print title to start with, that risk was worth taking.

Overall verdict? It’s early days, but despite the repackaging I like what I’ve seen, am enthused by the different approach, and impressed by the energy Post editor Stacey Barnfield and his team have thrown into the project.

You only have to read their social media exchanges to see this is a product they believe in, and that they are proud to play a part in daily publishing again.

And this passion is infectious – even grumpy John Duckers, a former Birmingham Post business editor, praised Business Daily as “excellent” on his Duckers & Diving blog, generously stating: “Most re-launches are failures; this looks to have got it right first time.”

He added: “The daily tablet is an innovative and brave initiative which deserves to take the name Birmingham Post into a new era and a vibrant future.”

For once, Trinity Mirror is first with the latest technology, and I believe the Post’s Business Daily will shake up the marketplace to seriously challenge ‘traditional’ internet competitors.

And while it’s not called a paywall, it’s encouraging to see a real attempt to charge a decent fee for daily online content.


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  • June 12, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I don’t think the comparisons with the Business Desk carry much weight. From what I’ve seen the Business Desk is little more than a portal for distributing corporate press releases with no insight or analysis whatsoever. By comparison the Business Daily does seem to offer genuine journalism and a fair measure of analysis. The data stuff in particular is excellent. I also think it looks good, fills a real gap in the market and is undoubtedly a bold and ambitious move by a company that has traditionally seemed to be playing catch-up when it comes to the digital media world.

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  • June 14, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I wouldn’t disagree with anything in the previous reply, but my concerns re the Business Daily are the ability of the slimmed-down TM team at the Fort to create such a significant swathe of content each day, and the size of the target audience. I suspect most members of the business community remain wedded to their Blackberries, and will only see a tablet when back home in the evening, which potentially negates the merit of a daily business offering.

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