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?
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.