Expert comment: The end of The New DayWednesday 11 May 2016
Lecturer in Media Dr Anthony Cawley discusses the short-lived print run of the Trinity Mirror’s newest publication The New Day.
Trinity Mirror’s move to close The New Day after fewer than 10 weeks in print, is less surprising than its decision to launch the title in the first place.
In recent years, good news stories have been scarce for the print industry, which has been bearing heavy year-on-year losses of circulation and advertising revenues. One exception among paid-for newspapers has been the i, which started life as a digest sister publication to The Independent and was sold off when that title went online only earlier this year. Now owned by regional publisher Johnston Press, the i had a circulation of 270,000 copies at the end of March, when the final print editions of The Independent were struggling to reach 55,000 copies (SOURCE: ABC).
The i’s success may have convinced Trinity Mirror that The New Day could claim a stake in the paid-for digest news market. But the company, having lost first mover advantage to the i, gave the impression of having a fuzzy view of who The New Day’s target readers were.
The publisher was keen to stress that the publication was not to be a diluted version of its flagship Mirror titles. Instead, it was pitched as a less partisan, more upbeat alternative to the established national broadsheet and tabloid titles.
Such an editorial stance, while commendable, caused identity problems for The New Day and may have reduced its appeal to the majority of habitual newspaper purchasers.
But the title was low on momentum from the start. The marketing campaign to support its launch was bland and brief, and its pricing strategy (free at first, then shifting from 25p to 50p) was muddled. The Guardian suggests that its circulation may have been as low as 30,000 copies by the end.
It is a pity the title was folded so soon. Journalistically, The New Day was well designed and edited, and its reportage on social issues was intelligent and fresh.
The launch and closure of The New Day has attracted a lot of attention, as has The Independent’s move to online-only publication. This is because both were national print titles.
At regional level, however, print title closures are far more frequent and, outside of affected local communities, receive far less attention. For instance, Trinity Mirror closed 27 local titles in 2008, The Liverpool Post in 2013, and seven local titles in 2014 (SOURCE: Trinity Mirror Annual Reports, 2008, 2013, 2014). In this regard, the company’s actions are no different to those of other UK regional publishers, who have been ruthless in closing unprofitable local titles.
The New Day’s closure will come as a bitter disappointment to its editorial team and as an annoyance to Trinity Mirror management and shareholders. Beyond that, it is a side issue when considered among the challenges facing the newspaper industry generally.
The financial crisis of the late-2000s cut deep into the revenues of newspaper publishers, and their balance sheets have yet to heal. Also, each year, audiences are shifting more and more of their news consumption from print to digital, particularly through smartphones.
Newspaper publishers have struggled to grow online revenues fast enough to compensate for withered print income. Those that continue to operate at a profit do so because they have slashed costs, often through editorial redundancies, at a startling rate.
In this context, it is notable that Trinity Mirror, when announcing The New Day’s closure in a trading update, also revealed that Group revenues had declined 8.6 per cent in the first four months of 2016. (SOURCE: Trinity Mirror Investor Relations).