We all thought it. We’d have been mad not to. “Why are we launching a new national newspaper when print media is drawing its last breaths?”
But there we were, a team of around 20 huddled into a Trinity Mirror meeting room ready to hear about its new launch, The New Day.
“Okay, so we get it’s a new print newspaper, but it’ll have a website too, right?”
No. The reason? Other than the facts it would cost more money to run a website too and it would compete directly with Mirror Online, it was also that the founders wanted to prove that print media wasn’t dying. So to launch a website while championing print media would be akin to driving your 4×4 to an environmental protest.
The team didn’t go in blind, of course. Over the previous year, masses of research had been carried out, from surveys to focus groups. I attended a number of the latter myself in the lead up to the launch. The results suggested that people still wanted to read newspapers, but they were tired of the options currently available to them. They were tired of the doom and gloom. The political bias. The separation between journalist and reader. The obsession with celebrity and shock factor.
The facts were there in front of us. People wanted a new kind of newspaper.
The knowledge that people go online to get their news now wasn’t ignored either. We understood that we’d have to offer something more: a reflection on the day’s news, opinions, experts, informative infographics and so on.
To launch a website while championing print media would be akin to driving your 4×4 to an environmental protest
We also considered the research which showed people are begging to slow down. In a world of digital detoxes, the slow-food movement and mindfulness, people want the feel of quality paper in their fingers and to enjoy the ritual of reading a paper while drinking their morning coffee.
We’d read books and share articles supporting this ethos, and the more we looked into it, the more the team got behind it.
We also embraced a new way of working: flexible hours (need to leave early for your kid’s sports day? As long as we know in advance, we’ll cover you), remote working for those who lived outside London, daily conferences that involved the whole team and invited story suggestions from everyone – yes even the designers. The Editor blew the open-door policy off its hinges by sitting alongside us in the open-plan office, ready with an open ear if you had a concern or suggestion.
All this, plus the fact we were all in the same boat together, built a sense of camaraderie none of us had experienced anywhere else. Indeed our Head of News was also the self-appointed party planner, and every week we had Thirsty Thursday, where the team would celebrate another successful week. Successful, at least as far as we were concerned.
Unfortunately we were unaware of the sales figures. A conscious decision at first, the Editor understandably decided she didn’t want to know (or for the team to know) the numbers for fear of us either spiralling into a sense of doom, or feeling we could rest on our laurels.
Of course, as these things have a habit of doing, the stats found their way into the press and we soon heard that things weren’t going as well as we’d hoped.
There were a handful of meetings where we were asked what we thought could be done to increase sales.
Editorially we became more “newsy” (we were accused of being too much like a magazine) and answered reader requests for TV listings and for the sports pages to be put into their own section. But a lot of the arrows pointed to the fact that people just weren’t getting their hands on it.
Our suggestions were all given the same answer: “We don’t have the budget”
We made suggestions: put New Day stands in newsagents, ask supermarkets to stop tucking copies beneath other newspapers, sell them at a discounted price when you bought a coffee at Starbucks. But these suggestions were all given the same answer: “We don’t have the budget.”
It was a real shame because the people who did pick it up, loved it. We had readers calling and emailing to say how it was a “breath of fresh air”, and that they had given up on newspapers but were thrilled to be buying one again.
Unfortunately, promotion by word of mouth takes time – one thing we didn’t have. On Wednesday, May 4, we were called into a meeting to say they had no choice but to close down The New Day.
Some had a hunch it was going to happen. Others, like me, thought we had more time. But the fact was it didn’t make financial sense for them to continue and that was that.
Do I think this means print media is dead? No. With more money and time I think we could have made a success of The New Day, at least for a few years.
The team still continue to meet up for Thirsty Thursday, and there’s often talk of the dream that some wealthy investor will come along, buy The New Day and bring it back to life. Heck, after a few glasses of wine, we’d even settle for a website.