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News Analysis

By The Drum, Administrator

September 7, 2006 | 6 min read

It’s on the streets and the war has begun. Trinity Mirror has taken a huge gamble and launched an evening edition of its flagship Scottish daily tabloid, the Daily Record, going directly up against Glasgow’s Evening Times and the Edinburgh Evening News in a bid to win readers and advertisers.

While it would be easy to describe the launch as a knee-jerk reaction to the Record’s recent circulation defeat with the Scottish Sun, Trinity did dip its toe in the afternoon paper water when it launched a commuter edition of The Glaswegian earlier this year.

Launching Record PM to advertisers at the paper’s Glasgow offices, Mark Hollinshead, managing director of the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd, said that the move was a reaction to the change in readers’ habits. “There is an old saying in marketing land, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’,” he told the assembled audience. “It would be great if that were the case, but this is now certainly an anachronistic view of the newspaper business. The aim of the new PM edition is to extend the Daily Record’s regional influence to a wider audience in order to deliver the newspaper’s appeal to readers and advertisers. All advertisers carried in the main national edition of the Daily Record will also be carried in PM, but advertising will also be tailored to the individual market to be served with a change of emphasis of important classified platforms by addition. This is just the start. The launch of PM is the first phase of a rolling programme of quite a radial development in our publishing strategy.”

At the same event, Daily Record’s editor, Bruce Waddell was combative about the editorial strategy. “In essence, we have a new evening paper, Glasgow and a new evening paper, Edinburgh,” he said. “Why do this? Are we mad? Our competitors naturally think so because they want their markets to themselves. They don’t like it because we’re parking our tanks on their lawns. In the last three weeks, just look at the news our PM edition would have covered which our main edition can’t, due to time constraints. Tommy Sheridan, the big news story broke at 4pm on the Friday, would we have produced a late edition of PM? Damn right we would. 7.30am, alert at all airports, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. An early morning edition of PM? Absolutely. Midday – last Wednesday, Petrov signs for Martin O’Neil at Villa. Great timing for us. Today, Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, killed by Stingray, straight onto page one.”

But initial reaction, rightly or wrongly, has been quite adverse towards the product, certainly with its newly-found rivals, the Edinburgh Evening News and the Evening Times. With Dundee and Aberdeen versions apparently planned, detractors could be many.

“It confuses the brand and it confuses the price structure,” says John McLellan, editor of Edinburgh Evening News. “Is the Daily Record a morning newspaper for the whole of Scotland or is the Daily Record an evening paper for Edinburgh? Does the Daily Record cost 35p or does the Daily Record cost 15p? When do you buy a Daily Record? It asks questions of every aspect of a newspaper’s identity. There’s going to be confusion there. One thing I do know is that nobody’s going to buy two Daily Records and it seems to me that the later paper was very busy, crammed, and they have tried to maintain what they had in the morning paper but tried to squeeze in a few Edinburgh stories. And a lot of their pages lost the impact. I thought the first edition was a better product than the later one, so why put a product out into the marketplace that’s inferior? It’s very difficult to understand that unless it’s about price and not content. The main game is still the morning paper and their PM operation is the fag end of it. They will be fighting for resources with the morning machine and it’s very difficult to hive off resources to feed what is still a relatively small production run compared to the morning. None of it stacks up.

“This is skirting around the central issues that the core product is declining as they’re under attack from The Sun. They’re trying to find cheap and easy sales at other points. This is not about expanding their business, it’s about saving their business, and this [the launch of PM] is, in my view, entirely the wrong tactic.”

Donald Martin, editor of the Evening Times, was reticent to comment on his new rival, despite launching a 15p later edition in the last month. “We’re delighted by the response of the Evening Times’ team and we produced a fantastic product on Monday,” he would only say. “No doubt we’ll enjoy bumper sales.”

Although it was one of the worst kept secrets in the media world, the group’s communication to everyone else was muted. “It’s fair to say it’s been a very low key launch by the Record,” says Stuart Bell, director of trading at Feather Brooksbank. “One of the challenges they’re going to face is that the Evening News and the Evening Times hit the streets at about 11o’clock and they’ve obviously got a number of subsequent editions. I think the three o’clock release time is a bit late, but, to be honest, if they made it any earlier then it would affect their own morning sales. I personally don’t think it will have a detrimental affect on the morning edition. People have got their habit of getting their Daily Record in the morning; they’re not going to wait untill three o’clock. You can get the Daily Record in the morning for 15p anyway with your coupon. If you look at the London market, as an example, you’ve now got four free newspapers in London. You’ve got the Metro, you’ve got City AM, you’ve got thelondonpaper and you’ve got London Lite. That seems to be the model. I think they’re going to find it difficult to get people to pay the 15p.”

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