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Dyson at Large: Long live the last remaining ‘Evening’ papers

Urgent message for all regional daily newspapers which still have ‘Evening’ in their mastheads: don’t drop it.

My thought was prompted by Local World’s bid to reinvent evening editions online, which of all the experiments that have bombarded the regional industry in recent months sounds like a pretty good idea.

But online initiatives aside, why, oh why did so many publishers, editorial directors, editors and marketing experts decide that losing the word ‘Evening’ was the way forward for print?

Do you remember the Bolton Evening News, Bristol Evening Post, Colchester Evening Gazette, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Derby Evening Telegraph, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Nottingham Evening Post, Plymouth Evening Herald and the Evening Gazette, Teesside – to name just ten extinct brand names?

NottinghamEveningPost old copy

These historical local newspapers – and dozens of others up and down the country – all dropped their ‘Evening’ mastheads as a direct consequence of ‘going overnight’, one after the other, in the last eight years.

Now we have various Telegraphs, Posts, Gazettes, etcetera – all with half their names instantly forgotten in what seemed to be a blind guilt-trip of a rebranding decision, supposedly a more honest reflection of the papers’ production cycles.

But none of those old ‘Evening’ papers had really been printed and distributed in the evening for many a year anyway.

Even in the 1990s, they all had first editions that went to press by 10am, main city editions by 1pm and – if you were lucky – a ‘Late Night Final’ that was actually on the presses by 4pm at the latest.

The same titles could today far more accurately be described as ‘Evening’ papers, because that’s exactly when they are put to bed, the night before the dateline.

I’m guilty too: we changed the Evening Mail to the Birmingham Mail under my editorship in October 2005, wrongly thinking that what we felt was a more modern title would help our relaunch.

One of our excuses was that the Birmingham Mail had been what the paper was known as from the late 19th century until around 1972, when it first assumed the ‘Evening’ in a merger with the city’s Evening Despatch.

Needless to say, the 2005 rebranding didn’t help, and quite possibly hindered sales, with some confused readers searching newsstands for their Evening Mail which, after 30 years, was a specific name that meant something to them.

Renaming it the Birmingham Mail certainly came before any suggestion of ‘overnight’ publication, or at least before any such suggestion was made to me, (although I now have my suspicions!).

But forget the reasons. What other household names can you think of that would ever consider butchering their brand as a knee-jerk marketing gimmick, without a second thought?

Can you imagine buying a Bar (full name: Mars Bar), a Wurly (Curly), a bottle of Liquid (Fairy) or a packet of Nobs (Hob)? Or how about a Kat (Kit), a Bru (Irn) or a Decker (Double)?

Turning to publishing, how about an Own (Woman’s), a Claire (Marie), a Fair (Vanity) or a Break (Take a)? Or in the case of newspapers, what the hell would we mean if we only had a ‘Times’, confusing readers over whether we meant the Sunday, Financial, Radio, the national daily or the Glasgow Evening Times?

The massacre of the ‘Evening’ nomenclature will become even crazier if the above-mentioned Local World experiment to reintroduce “the spirit of the evening edition” is successful.

And so to those remaining local newspapers which still have an ‘Evening’ in their monikers, I say: don’t change it, whatever you do.

One of the few remaining strengths you have left in your local marketplace is how your most loyal customers and newsagents think about and have always referred to you.

Long live the last remaining baker’s dozen of ‘Evening’ newspaper titles: the Aberdeen Evening Express, Dundee Evening Telegraph, Edinburgh Evening News, Glasgow Evening Times, Jersey Evening Post, Lancashire Evening Post, Manchester Evening News, North West Evening Mail, Norwich Evening News, Oldham Evening Chronicle, South Wales Evening Post, Wigan Evening Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.

16 comments

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  • July 1, 2015 at 8:59 am
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    Add the Brighton Evening Argus once selling 100,000 plus now dribbling along at about 12,000 as next morning off the pace paper.
    It was never the same once it stopped being an evening.dyson is right, keep evening.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 10:11 am
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    I think you’re tangling up two issues.
    1 – Most evening papers, for better or worse, have become morning papers.
    2 – Some of those have dropped ‘evening’ from their masthead, some haven’t. There’s a strong rationale for keeping it (as you state). There’s an equally strong rationale for dropping it. Go to a newsagent or train station in the morning. Find some members of the public. Ask them to tell you about the ‘Evening xxx’ on the newsstand. The regular buyers will tell you it’s today’s paper. The less regular buyers will tell you that it is yesterday’s and that they therefore wouldn’t buy it. I’ve tried this in 7 cities so far and always same result.

    Having said that I can’t find any evidence that what you call it makes any difference either way to the sales trend.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 10:39 am
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    Halifax Evening Courier – four editions, last off the stone at 5 pm,plus the Green Final on Saturdays, circulation around 50,000 in the 1970s, all gone now.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 10:39 am
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    Horses for courses
    The dire Norwich evening news has ceased to become an essential read for local people wanting to read the news of the day and as a result sales have gone through the floor thousands turning three back on it and with it coming out at breakfast time instead of tea time
    Back when it thrived it was the main source of fairly instant news, move on 20 + years and the need for an evening paper has gone with immediate news updates via the web as they happen and the paper filled with old news or weak feature pieces.
    Archant are trying to rebrand it as a Metro which must be the final flare fired off the wreckage of this once well read and respected paper. They’ve even planned to drop the masthead from the front of the building
    Sad to say but the days of credible valued evening papers have gone, certainly in this neck of the woods

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  • July 1, 2015 at 11:07 am
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    The speed of the internet has actually destroyed the attraction of an evening paper. People once bought them for more immediate news and I can recall my own evening paper scooping nationals regularly pre-internet days.
    Now papers are loading their best stories on the web what’s the point of running to the expense of an evening paper? But I do feel if they are not coming out in the evening they should not be called evening papers. By the way is this a Trade Descriptions debate in the offing?

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  • July 1, 2015 at 11:59 am
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    The sad fact is that the average circulation of the 13 UK regional papers branded Evenings is under 17,000.
    I’ve slowly come round to the idea that the regional future lies predominately on-line backed by big weekly print papers of record (JP antithesis)stuffed with bumper editorial, local display ads and classifieds in profitable tabloid format nudging 200 pages.
    A huge city like Birmingham could support three or four local weeklies, each with own 24-hour website including city-wide news
    Any other ideas out there?

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  • July 1, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    Taking ‘Evening’ out should be really carefully considered, as for some titles this forms an important part of the acronyms they are known by. For example, MEN, LEP, and so on. And in the Yorkshire Evening Post’s case, it’s obviously crucial to maintain the differentiating ‘Evening’ because of its sister Yorkshire Post.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 4:05 pm
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    I recall with a certain fondness the paper vendor outside my office on Snowhill calling out in nasal tones; “Eenhale, Eenhale” for Evening Mail in the ’70s.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 4:42 pm
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    Muker boy . I agree. The future should be thriving weeklies. But companies like JP have destroyed what made them good. Local offices, local people, local knowledge. Oh yes, and local news. Maybe in ten years some genius will be paid a small fortune to restore what Highfield and his henchmen (,and women) ruined in the digi rush. If the papers can last that long.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 9:09 pm
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    Town cries of our youth. Outside the offices of the Coventry Evening Telegraph in the 1970s were two vendors competing for buyers as the City Final edition of the Evening Telegraph arrived. We hacks knew them from their sales pitches as Ian Haygarf and Seedy Fennel.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 10:06 pm
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    To believe there is a market for local evening papers is living in a state of denial, in the modern media age news is instant and people want expect and get their news as it happens, to cling on to an archaic form of daily news publishing is like trying to put a case for steam coal powered trains to be brought back, the worlds moved on and we in the news ( I almost said ‘print’ ) industry need to move with the times and adapt to current media forms, If nothing else the costs of propping up weak evening papers such as the awful Norwich evening news with readership figures crashed through the floor put a huge financial drain on the company’s profits, with little or no advertising to offset costs it’s a huge liability and one wonders just how long it can remain before the plug is pulled or it goes free. Whilst I’m sure we would all love to go back to the glory days pre Internet,of huge papers and queues of people lining up to buy them It really is a case of facing facts, those days are gone and what passes as pale imitations of evening newspapers have lost their audience and no amount of hype or wishful thinking will bring them back.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm
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    Muker Boy – you’re coming round to the idea of online backed by weeklies? How about getting rid of online altogether, then people will still pay for the paper. Online can’t survive without print’s advertisiing revenue, yet it is giving away print’s product for free.

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  • July 2, 2015 at 1:47 pm
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    Tub thumper is spot on, I can’t see why evening papers and yes especially the embarrassing and costly norwich evening news continues to be published? I’d like to see the profit and loss sheet for that title as its ABC figures are at record all time lows, there’s no advertising in It to speak of other than space fillers for Archants own travel club, mustard tv or their mag aimed at oaps and the content , you can’t call it “news” is rehashed stuff from the previous day or nothing features written by juniors. Take that and the Partride-esque Nustard tv out of their cost base and things might look a bit less grim than it does currently .

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  • July 4, 2015 at 2:23 pm
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    Yes, Tub thumper is right. It is quite out of touch to expect these newspapers to continue with no market to support them. When my own paper went from daily to weekly, people moaned like anything about the decision, completely ignoring the fact not enough of said people were buying the bloody thing to keep it going!

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  • July 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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    I think the Birmingham Mail merged with the Evening Despatch around 1962 not 1972 as Steve suggests. The Despatch was a great little tabloid, far more punchier than the staid Mail, with some great writers, particularly the film writer Ivor Jay who went on to write many of the scripts for the TV soap Crossroads. I remember the masthead on the merged paper was The Birmingham Evening Mail and Despatch but all mention of the Despatch vanished fairly quickly.

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