The journalism blogosphere (a place where the word dinosaur is used more than any palaeontology convention) is awash with news of the Birmingham Post’s (and it’s owner Trinity Mirror’s) relaunch plans. In short (apart from changes in the production process, which aren’t unique to any newspaper these days — more cross platform working, job losses unfortunately) there were three big threads:
- going tabloid (in size rather than attitude)
- dropping the Saturday edition
- “focusing on business news”
While I might say I would prefer the Post to go Berliner in size (a la the Guardian) that would require a big investment, whereas the tabloid size is well established. Papers and magazines have been reducing in size for a few years, without any noticeable drop in quality, so I’m sure that will pan out okay.
Not publishing on Saturdays is really en extension of the decision to focus in on business readers. If the sales (2,000 lower of a Sat – 20% lower according to the Press Gazette) on Saturdays don’t produce enough profit as it is then a business focused paper on a weekend would struggle more.
Both of these things are related to people consuming news online a lot more — the paper version of a paper is more niche in use for a lot of people. It’s for use when travelling, or otherwise not by a computer. If you need to fold and fold a broadsheet to read on the train, what use are beautiful expansive layouts? “Editions” also become less important — if the Post manages to go “web first” (as is almost the case now, but not quite) then (to the people reading online) whether articles are in a physical paper on Saturday or the next Monday doesn’t really matter.
I read almost all of what’s printed in the Post, but rarely (company receptions, doctor’s waiting rooms, when I’m in it) do I see the dead-tree version — the chalenge for the team there is to harness people who read online only. A new mobile site might help, but it seems — as the “mobile web” does – to be a bit of a ass-covering measure, mobile specific sites are already being overtaken as newer handheld devices can use the same web as everything else. It would be a mistake not to do tho’, all the competition will do.
It’s the “business focus” that is the real news here, and will come as news to those of us that think the paper is pretty much focused on “business” already. Most “relaunches” tend to be decided upon to widen the readership/viewership/listernership/whateverership, in order to get more readers and more advertising, this seems to take a more modern line: to work the niche more, gaining scope for more targeted ads.
Are there enough people interested in “business” to carry the operation? That’s the big question.
The joy of the Post for me (who has only a passing interest in “business”) is the feel of quality journalism focused on my local area — we can take longer, opinionated but researched think pieces, convincing background information — which is more than anything other local papers produce (or that local TV or radio are capable of).
If the Post can continue to provide that then I’ll keep caring (and reading the bits I like online). If not then there’s yet another niche opening in the market for some enterprising interwebs to provide. I might even do it myself (getting some people in to do the quality and research bits obviously ;) ).