Do we need a new newspaper?

New Day

Photo Trinity Mirror

Two significant things have happened lately in the newspaper world and I think they’re more related than people have assumed. First, the Independent has decided to start publishing online only. Second, we’re expecting the first issue of a new paper, the New Day, in less than a week.

So what’s going on?

First it’s important to deal with the Indie. I have to say I’m sad but not at all surprised. It’s been years since I wrote for it, partly because one of my commissioning editors was unbelievably rude (she had a reputation for telling everyone they couldn’t structure an article, that everything they’d written was unrelated and incoherent…then publishing anyway, which is what happened to me) and second because the absolute last time I wrote for them, they decided to cut their freelance rates without warning. There was no point in objecting, I was told, there were new people in charge.

That’s not how I do business. I took the loss and worked elsewhere. It’s not how anybody does business. It may have been unrepresentative and I have no idea how many sections of the paper were affected, but I wasn’t surprised to hear it was going.

It will be interesting to see whether the digital version is successful. Taking away the overhead of printing certainly sounds like a positive move (and following journalist cutbacks of 20% a few weeks ago I imagine my Guardian friends are watching this like the proverbial hawks) unless you’re employed by the printer; whether the brand is as easy to sustain without the print version as a flagship or even loss leader remains to be seen. The Daily Mail has done extraordinarily well on the Web, but would it work without that printed flagship?

New Day

My guess is that it wouldn’t work for people my age (50) but younger people won’t mind so much about the printed stuff – they’ve grown up with screens rather than learned themĀ in adulthood. So it’s arguably an odd time for Trinity Mirror to be launching New Day, which emerges on the 29th.

The BBC suggests the difference between this and the I is that the I is a cut-down version of the Independent, whereas New Day will be a standalone title.

This is where they miss the point and where there is a link between the two. The I won’t be a cut-down version of the Independent when it’s owned by Johnston Press, and especially when there is no Independent in hard copy form (even if it retained its ties, it’s going to be standalone as far as the hard copy buyer in the newsagent is concerned).

So New Day has an opportunity in appealing to time-poor people whose views don’t coincide with those of the relatively liberal Independent stable. At the moment, though, it’s aiming to be politically neutral and will not have a leader as such, but a selection of easy-to-digest news.

And this is where the real risk is going to emerge; never mind a new title, they’ve come and gone before and will continue to do so as the digital world makes further inroads. What’s new is that we’re all so used to the papers being so strident about their views (Guardian to the left, Telegraph to the right, Mail even further to the right and soforth) that something genuinely neutral could risk looking pretty bland by comparison. Oh, and did I mention this one won’t have a website so if you want it you’ll have to buy it? Or just log on to something else.

I wish the new launch nothing but well – why would anyone say otherwise? But they’re going to have to find an attention-grabber other than “neutral” to sell in the number they’ll need to make it sustainable.

One thought on “Do we need a new newspaper?”

  1. Guy,
    I, like you, am skeptical about a new printed newspaper. The problem with focussing on news is that the vast majority of us get our news online or from broadcast media. Wherever we get it from, the “news” that’s printed in a daily newspaper can only be a roundup of all the news that’s happened in the previous 24 hours (less about 8 hours for printing & distribution).

    In my view this is why the majority of newspapers have become more strident in their points of view – since news isn’t new by the time it’s printed, the only thing that keeps readers interested is either in-depth analysis or opinion. With our reducing attention spans, few of us have time for in-depth analysis, so the more strident the opinion the more entertaining it’s likely to be.

    Furthermore I remember a BBC “The Media Show” episode a couple of years ago discussing the funding of newspapers – the participants were Alan Rusbridger, then editor of the Guardian, and the then editor of the Sunday Times – whose name I’ve forgotten for the moment. The only thing they agreed on during the whole programme was that the cost of paper, ink, printing and distribution was increasingly unsustainable and that they’d each bought the last printing presses their journals were ever likely to own.

    All of which suggests to me that Trinity Mirror’s venture into a new printed daily newspaper focussing on news without leaders is unlikely to succeed.

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