Trinity Mirror’s the New Day experiment – what went wrong?

Almost as suddenly as it burst on to newsstands, Trinity Mirror’s the New Day is no more, ending a short-lived two-month print run. So what went wrong at the hopeful title that strived to go against the grain in print?

If you’re going to fail, fail fast; as sad as it is when a publication closes that’s exactly what Trinity Mirror has done for a newspaper that struggled to find a market and a price point. Executives at the publisher always said they wouldn’t continue to pump money into the brand if the numbers weren’t where they needed to be and that’s what happened. Toward the end of the New Day’s life it was struggling to shift 80 per cent of its daily 200,000 print run, a slump which all but guaranteed its demise.

In hindsight, the move seems foolhardy but at the time the publisher had enough cause to believe it could make the New Day a success. There are still 6.8 million newspapers sold everyday claimed the Trinity Mirror, and 16.7 million people read a national edition daily. Not to mention the success of the i.

"Our way is not the old way," Trinity Mirror's group marketing director Zoe Harris told The Drum at the Media Slap event today (5 May), outlining the rationale for launching the New Day.

"The idea was to think about the reader rather than what the journalist thinks. There is a sense of 'printism' at play in the way that people are talking down about print more than they need to....Sales [of the New Day] are not where they need to be but there is a real difference between what Soho thinks about products and what readers think."

Trinity Mirror has declined to comment further on its decision. However, it is understood that a high proportion of the title’s team will go back to the previous positions held within Trinity Mirror, while those new to the business have been let go.

“Audience behaviours are constantly evolving, and the print market needs to reflect the fact that a mobile-dependent audience will increasingly look for news sources online,” said Liz Duff, head of broadcast at Total Media. “Younger audiences in particular want to consume bite-sized snapshots of content rather than in-depth features, so the New Day print format wouldn’t have resonated with them.”

Such is the complexity of the publishing industry that there’s no one reason behind the paper’s death. Some media observers have criticised a pricing strategy that jumped from 20p to 50p in too short a space of time to really give people a reason to accept the price hike from a new brand, whereas others have blamed what they deem a poor distribution channel.

Advertisers held a similarly conflicted view of the tile; there’s a lot of admiration from agencies for the New Day’s attempt to open up a new audience – young professional women – but it never really generated enough scale to get them to fully commit.

That’s not to mention the newspaper’s digital strategy, that like with everything else it did was contrarian. Instead of having a site, the title initially went for a cost-effective move of trying to generate conversations around its print articles on Facebook and Twitter. The positive that Trinity Mirror will be able to take out of the failed launch is the “strong” engagement levels it claimed it was able to drive from Facebook – learnings that they will hopefully be able to transfer to its other titles.

Digital was the part of the strategy that was always going to be tricky to pull off, given how pivotal online now is as a conduit of pushing content at scale out to potential readers. ESI Media’s decision to turn the Independent into a 100 per cent digital at a similar time as the New Day’s launch compounded the uphill challenge it faced.

“It’s been well documented that we think the paid for print market is extremely challenging but I think the industry needs more bravery like the New Day when it comes to exploring new models,” said Jon O’Donnell, group commercial director at ESI Media.

“In a digital world people wouldn’t think twice about launching brands and then closing them within a short space of time. There’s no doubt Trinity Mirror will have learned an awful lot from it. We did when we first launched the i. It was the right price point and at the right time and I think it has been an enormous success."

The end of the New Day will likely breathe new life into the debate as to whether enough younger readers are still willing to pay for content from a national publisher. For Sport Magazine, the UK’s first free weekly, Trinity Mirror’s experiment suggests no, a belief it feels it had to embrace otherwise it would not be about to celebrate its 10th birthday later this summer.

“Fundamentally, people don’t want to pay for content anymore,” said Sport Magazine editor Tony Hodson. “The industry has moved on whereby people can access quality content without having to pay for it and increasingly they just don’t want to anymore…Who knows what the New Day was but certainly in terms of content I think it was good quality but are people going to spend 25p or 50p to read what they can probably get elsewhere for free?"

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