Belfast Telegraph says “nothing is going to change”

The online Belfast Telegraph today featured an open letter from the paper’s editor Mike Gilson in which he cryptically defends the Belfast Telegraph’s reach and cryptically explains the decision to switch to being a morning paper only.

See if you can spot the sentence where he clearly explains the change?

Facts that show the Belfast Telegraph is greatest media force in Northern Ireland

Throughout its 142-year history the Belfast Telegraph has been the most comprehensive and trustworthy news service for Northern Ireland, dominating every media landscape and bringing its legion of readers a unique blend of news, comment and sport every day.

The Belfast Telegraph is and has been a byword for independent, courageous and quality journalism.

And nothing is going to change.

Nothing is going to change? What about your plan to drop all editions except the early morning (ie, overnight) one?

Minor changes to come into operation later this week will see the presses rolling earlier, the delivery vans reaching the shops at a different hour, the shopkeeper stacking the paper with that iconic ‘Final’ seal at a time we may not be used to.

But nothing will have changed.

Except that if anything happens during the day you’ll have to wait until the next morning to read it on the way into work. Or hope that the website is updated more frequently during the day. (Currently, many front page stories don’t appear on the Belfast Telegraph website until late in the day – or even the morning after – presumably to bolster newspaper sales.)

You, the loyal and discerning readers, will continue to get the best newspaper service in Northern Ireland at the time of day you now want it.

And if you’re a dedicated Home Delivery reader, the Belfast Telegraph will continue to drop in your letterbox at exactly the same time of day as before.

So you can have this morning’s paper this evening. Handy!

Every reader will continue to get:

  • A newspaper that has evolved into a modern force for good in this country.
  • A newspaper that uncovers the stories you want to read, campaigns for change that makes sense and has analysis and commentary with a depth and breadth that no other newspaper can match.
  • A newspaper that offers a sports service which covers a wider range of sports than any other in the UK.

In other words, a newspaper that helps you understand, without bias or favour, the world in which we live today.

A change of printing times does not alter that one jot.

Indeed, over the last 10 years the Belfast Telegraph has evolved into a successful multi-media service, outstripping all of our rivals in this country.

Our website, iPad and mobile news services have joined our newspaper to offer unparalleled news access to an ever-increasing number of people.

We are proud of that.

While others took small steps in the digital direction we embraced the new form. Now our audience is massive and our journalism is as influential as it has ever been.

The next bit is in bold on the Belfast Telegraph’s website.

Here are the figures:

  • The Belfast Telegraph website has DOUBLE the page impressions of all the other local news and current affairs websites in Northern Ireland put together.
  • In February belfasttelegraph.co.uk attracted 11million* page impressions from 1.8million* unique users, more than twice that of the Irish News, News Letter, UTV, Slugger O’Toole and Cool FM combined.

I bet Mick’s as pleased as he is surprised that Slugger got a mention!

But where’s any mention of BBC NI’s web pages? Surely that public service content is as pertinent to the Belfast Telegraph’s comparisons as clicking through picture galleries of actors and actresses and local people on a night out?

The link to ‘Media Pack’ at the bottom of every page on the Belfast Telegraph’s website quotes the ABC Nov 2010 figures – “over 13.5 million page impressions every month and 1.3 million unique users every month” – so users are up, but page impressions are down.

  • Add in 181,000** people who read the Belfast Telegraph every day to produce the greatest media force in Northern Ireland.

That’s 181,000 people reading 53,771 copies a day. That’s more than three people reading each copy “every day”! The figures are from the Kantar Media’s NI TGI survey which also notes that the Daily Mirror is read my more people in Northern Ireland than the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Daily Mirror – 218,000 (average daily readers)
  • Belfast Telegraph – 181,000 (3.4 people per paper)
  • Irish News – 165,000 (3.9 people per paper)
  • News Letter – 68,000 (3.0 people per paper)

Back to Mike Gilson …

The media landscape is rapidly changing and nothing can stay the same forever.

Across the British Isles newspaper companies are having to confront changing social needs and challenging economic times. We are no different.

But I promise you that one thing that will never change is that the Belfast Telegraph will continue to give you the news you need when you want it, whether that be in the morning, afternoon or even in the middle of the night.

Thanks for your continuing support.

Mike Gilson, Editor

*Source Google Analytics/Google Adplanner

**Source NITGI 2011

Nothing’s going to change. I bet there are fewer dead trees. Only question is which newspaper will be going green (or red) and needing fewer rolls of paper?

In the last six months of 2011, the Belfast Telegraph sold less than half the number of copies the News Letter sell each morning. When bulks (typically less than 50% of cover price) and free copies are omitted, the ABC figures show that:

  • Belfast Telegraph ‘First’ edition averaged 8,320 sales/subscriptions Monday-Saturday at the basic cover price, with another 1,909 bulks and 6,261 free pickup copies. (Later editions on average sell another 34,441 copies.)
  • News Letter averaged sales of 19,407 copies Monday-Friday (and 35,453 on Saturdays – the farming supplement is really popular) with 338 bulks (352 on Saturdays) and no free copies.
  • Irish News averaged sales of 41,868 copies Monday-Saturday at the basic cover price, with 64 bulks and no free copies.

So before this weekend’s change, the Belfast Telegraph is officially the baby of the morning market.

Mike Gilson’s remarks above can be interpreted as asking 34,441 existing readers to ignore when their paper was subbed and printed, and instead to continue to buy it (or allow it to pop through their letter box) at the same time of day they always did (morning, lunchtime, evening) – even through the content may be stale.

2006 Belfast Telegraph masthead saying Today's News TodayThe image in Wikipedia’s article on the Belfast Telegraph shows the old masthead which used to say “Today’s News Today”. That slogan is no longer part of the 2012 masthead!

Bread needs to be pretty tasty to eat when it’s stale.

– – –

The Irish News – which has started to publish a small number of articles online – notes that the Belfast Telegraph may shortly introduce a paywall:

Meanwhile it is understood that the Tele is set to introduce a paywall from next month on its internet service.

“We will continue to review our multi-platform charging policy as befits our publishing requirements,” the company said in a statement.

Surely that will dent its online prowess?

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