Generally, it’s a picture of falling sales and revenue, job cuts, fewer pages, more syndicated content, and – well, need we go on? Multi-edition titles have switched to a single edition, evening papers have become morning papers, and in the worst cases, dailies have become weeklies, and weeklies have closed altogether.
So, it was refreshing to see some good news coming from papers in North and South Wales this week. Firstly, the Daily Post celebrated its 50,000th edition – that’s quite a landmark. It launched in 1855 as the Liverpool Daily Post, but the Liverpool edition switched to weekly publication in 2012, while the stronger-selling North Wales edition continued as a daily.
Its special commemorative edition included a 16-page supplement, looking back at more than 150 years of reporting regional, national and international news – the sinking of the Titanic, the assassination of JFK, the Aberfan disaster.
Depressing stories to highlight depressing times for the industry, you might think. But in that same supplement, editor Alison Gow points out that the Post is doing better than most – though cynics may say it’s just not sinking as fast as the rest.
She acknowledges the reality of a “leaner” (= quieter and busier) newsroom, but points out that the print version of a paper is only part of the story these days.
Which brings us to the second piece of good news. The Post and its Trinity Mirror stablemate Western Mail both launched free apps this week. The Mail and other Cardiff titles under its WalesOnline identity even gave us this fun video from supplements editor Hannah Jones on how to use it.
The apps follow the launch of tablet e-editions of the Daily Post, Western Mail, South Wales Echo, and Wales on Sunday two months earlier.
So newspapers are no longer just newspapers, and it’s unfair to judge their success or failure by sales of their print editions alone. Traffic to their websites is growing, and the apps and e-editions provide readers with ways to access journalism that the founders of the Daily Post could never have imagined.
However, print newspapers provide a well-understood business model. Can online news, apps and e-editions become sufficiently profitable to compensate for the apparently inevitable decline of the print titles?
We can only hope so, and try to share Alison Gow’s confidence when she writes “I can’t tell you what the 100,000th Daily Post will look like, or how you’ll read it, but I’m utterly sure it will still be around.”
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