The launch of The New Day, Trinity Mirror’s new Monday to Friday newspaper, just a few weeks before ESI Media finally puts its newspaper brands, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, out of their print misery highlights what a counter-intuitive move the publisher seems to have made.
Conventional wisdom (and a glance at the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures) suggests that print media is in a continual decline as readers migrate to digital channels. It’s why ESI Media is betting on the online version of its Independent brand succeeding in making money where the print titles failed, having also off loaded their cut-price stablemate to Johnston Press.
But then The New Day doesn’t consider itself a ‘newspaper’ as such – well not of the traditional variety anyway.
In fairness, the Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox acknowledges that print advertising isn’t going to be enough to sustain the new title. He thinks that if it can generate enough buyers willing to pay 50p for its frothy mix of lifestyle, puzzles and opinion features then it will be able to stand on its own two feet. But his 200,000 target sounds ambitious given that it is entering a market that is already well served, both on- and offline.
Despite claiming to be gender neutral, Trinity Mirror seems to be positioning The New Day as a magazine-style daily with a female slant that Fox thinks will be able to “fill a gap in the market for a daily newspaper designed to co-exist in a digital age”. Aside from the slightly baffling layout of the newspaper – it’s all big fonts, big pictures, bite-size content – it’s this paradox of the acknowledgment that we are living in a digital age, while The New Day seems to be living somewhere else.
While its attempts to carve a lifestyle niche that sits somewhere between lifestyle magazine, puzzler book and news round up, is undoubtedly brave, the fact that its online presences amounts to just Twitter and Facebook is still striking – there is no dedicated online destination. And rather than use these platforms to create unique content, which is shareable and engages the audience around their passions and interests, instead it appears to be using them to try and build a community that it presumes will pick up on the topics from the newspaper and try and initiate debates through panels and surveys.
It’s a risky strategy and seems to rely on hitting those circulation figures. Given its small team of journalists, the cost of producing The New Day is not likely to be comparable to other dailies, which are encumbered with legacy business models – but it’s still not going to be cheap compared to its online-only rivals.
But whether or not Trinity Mirror can achieve its goal of engaging lapsed or new newspaper buyers to embrace its ‘new style’ of newspaper is a different question. While credit must be given for the first national newspaper launch in 30 years, judging by the first few days’ editions there’s little on offer that can’t be found elsewhere.
Time will tell if its attempts at making an old medium new and giving life to a dying business model will be successful.