Crowded market…

NORTHERN Ireland has one of the most competitive markets for the morning newspapers in these islands, if not the world, with between 15 and 20 titles daily. The Guardian takes a look at the current state of play, and how it is likely to change with the introduction of a new morning tabloid edition of the Belfast Telegraph (although you can buy the current broadsheet before noon) and Daily Ireland.

The threat of Daily Ireland from the Andersonstown News Group has already resulted in the Irish News upping its Irish language content, and the row over funding for newspapers will simmer on. On the other side of the fence, it will be interesting to see if the News Letter’s new direction as an unapologetic, hardline, unionist paper with ethnic undertones will be able to fend off the threat from the tabloid Tele.

A political editorial line is important to the three regional dailies here, but the top selling newspapers in Northern Ireland are UK tabloids with a smattering of sensationalist local news. There seems to have been an understable downturn in political coverage of the talks over the past year. Do people really care much about a newspaper’s editorial stance on the political situation? Are people ‘loyal’ to particular papers? Do we want to be informed or entertained? And who reads leader columns anyway?

  • peteb

    “Do we want to be informed or entertained?”, Gonzo?

    On the evidence of the viewpoints presented in those papers, and that goes beyond the editorials, most of us just want to be patted on the head and informed that we’re quite right to hold the opinions we already hold.

  • willowfield

    but the top selling newspapers in Northern Ireland are UK tabloids

    The article says the Belfast Telegraph is the top seller.

    (I thought the Daily Ireland was only going to cover NI and the “border counties”?)

  • The Dog

    Let’s be honest pretty much all of the local – 6 County – media here is second rate.

    The only half decent media outlet is UTV through their PA/newsroom site and the UTV life and UTV life slots.

    The BBC is decidedly third or forth rate. But then given the huge cuts in staff they may get a chance to get rid of the dead wood.

    The Irish News outside of Feeny and Jude Collins and some good sports and agri coverage is very weak.

    The Belfast tele just looks so bad and is badly laid out. Get past the political crap and it has one or two very good jouranlists who get good scoops esp on exposing the government.

    THe newsletter is just boring – it insults pretty much everyone – but then the editor has such a dodgy background – bbc – PSNI etc. . .

    The brit tabloids are very popular but they will only ever grab you if you like that sort of thing – i don’t.

    The irish times is not bad and the irish examiner is better – but both only really have marginal sales here.

    There is a gap in the market for a high brow eu-size daily that has some decent journalists but then there is only one top class journo in the north and he works for PA.

    I don’t know if the DI will fly but having quinn back it – who rarely backs a loser – is a good signal.

    But there is a deeper more difficult question – why is the quality of the media here so poor?

  • willowfield

    What’s an “eu-size daily”?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    WF

    The Irish News is ‘Euro’ format, as are the Morton Group newspapers (eg Larne Times etc), who were the first to use the format when they got their fancy Carn-based press a few years ago.

    The Guardian may be right about the Tele, but I think I am right in saying that the GB tabloid daily sales probably outsell the three regional dailies.

    More research needed on that maybe!

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    It’s significant that the Irish News is lurching to the green in recent months with its coverage, a bald faced bid to fill the territory which was vacant for so long and which enticed the Andersonsonstown News Group to come along with their Daily Ireland project.

    It’s surely not coincidental that the IN is attempting – hamfistedly albeit – to up its own Irish language coverage to one page a day, five days a week. Pages from the Conamara based Foinse once a week rehashed in the Irish News is hardly adding to Irish language coverage.

    The Irish News may be altering its format, even sharpening its political edge, but my estimation is that its too little, too late.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    It almost sounds as though you have a vested interest in this Mr Chromaill!

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    There was a good article in Fortnight on the dilemna facing the Irsh News.

  • maca

    “Pages from the Conamara based Foinse once a week rehashed in the Irish News is hardly adding to Irish language coverage”

    Not everyone may have access to Foinse. Better one rehashed page than nothing IMO 😉

  • Davros

    It doesn’t help that today’s page has a big picture of Garda McCabe.

  • Davros

    The Spectator’s Stephen Glover gives his thoughts:

    Why is the government backing a Sinn Fein paper in Northern Ireland?

    Some months ago I wrote about the plans of a publisher loyal to Sinn Fein to launch a new daily newspaper in Northern Ireland. Part of me was inclined to cheer at the prospect of a new title, but the cry of joy was stifled by the realisation that the group behind the project has already received financial support from the government, and is angling for further handouts. Andersonstown News Group and a subsidiary, Preas an Phobail, have pocketed some £750,000 from government bodies since 1999. The publisher has applied for further funding from the government agency Invest Northern Ireland for its new title. Almost unbelievably, it seems it may get its money. The launch of Daily Ireland, which will also distribute in the Irish Republic, is planned for next February.
    Let us set aside for a moment our distaste that a group which may be little more than a front for Sinn Fein should be receiving public funds. Even more outrageous is the effect that a government-supported title might have on existing newspapers, particularly the nationalist Irish News. This paper, which sells about 50,000 copies a day, has a largely Catholic readership, and has traditionally supported the SDLP. It is investing millions of pounds in new presses. (One of the very few publishers in the United Kingdom that can print a ‘Berliner’ or Le Monde-size newspaper, it has decided to adopt a tabloid format.) Obviously a paper with such a modest circulation would be vulnerable to a new entrant appealing to largely the same audience. If Daily Ireland were wholly funded from private sources, there could be no objection. But in effect the government is contemplating interfering in the market to back a paper that would be very likely to take some sales from the Daily News.
    As we all know, Tony Blair’s much vaunted ‘peace process’ has the effect of encouraging the extremist DUP and Sinn Fein, while squeezing the more moderate Catholic SDLP and the official Unionists. Now Downing Street seems hell-bent on achieving a similar effect among newspaper readers. The moderate Unionist (and highly profitable) Belfast Telegraph would probably lose very few readers to Daily Ireland. This paper sells nearly 100,000 copies a day. The Irish News, as I have said, is much more at risk. Even taking into account the government’s desire to sweeten Sinn Fein, the idea that it might promote Daily Ireland is preposterous. So far only a few Northern Ireland MPs at Westminster have even noticed what is going on. Could this be a cause that the Conservative party, which appears largely to have forgotten about the existence of Northern Ireland, might take up?