Photo: Trinity Mirror
That was quick. A few weeks ago when I was blogging about the launch of New Day, the first new newspaper since the i launched, I said it would need more than neutrality to attract the readership it needed to survive. I wished it well not because I thought it stood a chance but as I said in the original piece, why wouldn’t you?
I didn’t think it was particularly good but I didn’t realise that New Day would be gone as quickly as that. Today the BBC, the Guardian, Sky News and others have confirmed that tomorrow’s 50th edition will be the last due to poor sales.
So what went wrong?
The reasons are numerous but let’s start with a favourite bugbear of mine: there are no new rules. Love or hate the press (you’d be better off in the middle), there are some elements that don’t change. Bad news sells, sex sells, and they always have. Many journalists including me try to rise above this but we all know that the Sun did very well out of Page 3 for many years. I don’t care who the celebrity couple with the superinjunction about their threesome are, but I comprehend that when a newspaper breaks it in England it’ll sell or get loads of hits on its website.
New Day came out against some of that. It would put a positive news agenda forward, its editor said. Let’s put that in context: the Prime Minister is asked questions over his father’s investments in Panama, the Chancellor has to climb down over a number of measures in his budget, the junior doctors feel forced to go on strike, meanwhile the opposition is waylaid by allegations of antisemitism and New Day wanted to run a positive news agenda. I’d suggest that’s admirable in a way but foolhardy in most others.
Even when there was positive news to report its schedule didn’t always allow it to do so. Here’s a clue: name the only paper in the UK that apparently didn’t notice Leicester City’s football news over the weekend – clue, its initials are N. D. It had to go to press before the result was known. I know next to nothing about football except that it’s the one with the round ball and no sticks, but even I could see the importance of that result.
New Day, old technology
It also came out against the idea of digital editions or publishing on the Web, which is coincidentally exactly how consumers appear to be enjoying their papers at the moment (we’re probably the last generation who’ll refer to “papers”).
This is of course broad brush stuff, and some successes do appear to go against whatever is intuitive. That only works when they have something else to offer, though, and New Day’s content appeared bland in the extreme. Roy Greenslade in the Guardian also points to confusion over the price. To me, as long as it’s pocket change, that’s a detail.
It gives me no pleasure to have been proven right about the New Day so quickly. I’m a journalist, and fewer jobs for hacks like me is firmly in my “bad news” pile. The New Day was a non-starter, though; it gave readers the news they’ve never been inclined to buy in a format they no longer appear to want, and scheduled itself so that it missed the promised positivity when it happened in the late evening.
What could possibly go right?