The end of a brand New Day

Yesterday evening various political and media websites began to give credence to rumours that Trinity Mirror was to announce the imminent closure of the UK’s newest daily newspaper, the New Day.

These rumours were proved to be true this morning as a trading statement released by Trinity Mirror confirmed the worst fears of its journalists. It read;

Although The New Day has received many supportive reviews and built a strong following on Face book, the circulation for the title is below our expectations. As a result, we have decided to close the title on 6 May 2016. Whilst disappointing, the launch and subsequent closure have provided new insights into enhancing our newspapers and a number of these opportunities will be considered over time.

What an abrupt and sadly inevitable end to a project launched with great optimism  and, whatever your views on the paper itself, a freshness of approach intended to challenge the cynicism and negativity of the conventional press. If you didn’t like newspapers – then this was the paper for you.

The first (free) edition appeared on February 29th and as I wrote on this site it was vibrant, folksy, overwhelmingly upbeat and seemingly completely focussed on a female audience. Its sports coverage was scant, with no TV listings and there was an emphasis on lifestyle and issues. There was also the rather strange decision taken by the publishers of the “newspaper of the digital age” not to actually have a website or digital edition. And though this was partially rectified  in late April, it did seem that it may have been a major gamble which could easily deprive the New Day of a potential audience. So here we are just ten weeks later. The hoped daily sales of 200,000 never materialised and current sales figures are understood to be at around 40,000.

The closure is of course a major blow for all the journalists involved. New Day editor, Alison Phillips, wrote on the paper’s Face book page of the ‘extraordinary’ engagement with readers and the fact that there were clearly many people who loved the idea of a different kind of newspaper. Alas, as is also evidently the case, there were simply not that many of them willing to part with 25p for the first two weeks of sale and 50p thereafter.

And there, as if we didn’t know it, is the rub. The New Day did not become financially viable quickly enough. Some experts, such as former FT media editor Raymond Snoddy suggested that the price hike from 25p to 50 was implemented far too early – that circulation and brand loyalty should have been built before that decision was taken. In the Guardian Roy Greenslade  wrote of a venture doomed to fail because the newspaper was launched on the cheap. Bold in concept, timid in execution. Did no one at Trinity Mirror, he asked, stop to wonder at the unlikelihood of convincing a target audience composed of people who dislike newspapers to buy a newspaper?

It must be remembered, as is the case for all newspaper publishers, that these are dark days for Trinity Mirror. As the closure of the New day was announced, so too was  the fact that print advertising revenues were down 19% with circulation revenue down 4.5 per cent in the first four months of this year. The Financial Times today reported that Trinity Mirror’s pre-tax profit for 2015 fell 18 per cent to £67m, while revenues declined 7 per cent to £593m. According to the FT, the company’s share price has fallen about 80 per cent over the past decade.

It may be the case that this precarious situation led Trinity Mirror to seriously under fund the New Day. This most ambitious of projects, in the most volatile of times, simply did not have the workforce or financial backing to make a long term bid for success. A very brief  £5 million advertising campaign in the days before its launch proved wholly inadequate and the 25 core staff engaged in the day to day news gathering and editing of the paper were reportedly either on secondment from the Mirror and Sunday Mirror or on short term contracts. . Morale amongst staff could hardly have been improved by initial industry reaction to the paper, either. Analysts thought the venture ill conceived and veteran writers expressed scorn and ridicule. In the Spectator Alexander Chancellor wrote that reading the New Day made him feel like throwing himself “on the bonfire” reasoning that if it succeeded then it would mark the irreversible decline of newspapers.

So let’s spare a final thought for those journalists seeking to create and sustain something genuinely different in a familiar and troubled environment. Working with limited funds, seemingly half hearted, hasty management and a general public evidently ever more unwilling to pay for newspapers, the project was doomed to fail. It was therefore heartening to read the words of Alison Phillips this morning, whose optimism reflected the newspaper she so briefly edited.

I just hope all of those of us who’ve been involved in this escapade – readers, staff, advertisers, paperboys, papergirls….never ever stop trying new things. Because that’s when we start dying.
To take Samuel Beckett: ‘Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’
Thanks for everything…