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 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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  • cynic2

    “Nothing’s going to change”

    As accurate as the average BT story then.

  • ayeYerMa

    What on earth are they playing at? Moving to the morning means they are cannibalising both themselves and the Newsletter. If anything they should have moved to evening only.

    A wise response from the Newsletter might be to move to the evening.

  • cynic2. The phrase/cliche ‘doth protest too much’ springs to mind. The Bel Tel knows it’s circultion is in freefall and doesn’t seem to be able to take an objective view of it. In other words, they’re in denial.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    And nothing is going to change.

    I’m sure that’ll be of comfort to the two-dozen workers in the production office who are about to lose their jobs.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Hate blow your own trumpet waffle like this being used to cover up a major cut in the service provided, but guess that’s the Tele. I trust the quoted figures for online readers don’t include those for &

    What is the Slugger “readership” btw?

    Oh just to let yous know, the Newsletter has a great pull-out parades callendar in today issue, looks great on the wall.

  • andnowwhat

    One can well imagine the 9-5 worker grabbing a paper, after work, to read on the bus home to see what happened and that was the job of the “sixth” but the evening Tele has got earlier and earlier (it’s a long standing joke) and the radio or TV is more up to date on the news.

    It’s hard for me to imagine the vista of central London without the guys selling the Evening Standard (which I’m sure is suffering too) but it knew it’s market better than the Tele. People who read real papers (ie. nit red tops) like their news dry not jolly

  • Must be depressing for the Tele coming back down to earth after they’ve been on a high with their titanic ‘festivities’ sorry, [commemoration] for the last three weeks.

  • BluesJazz


    Today’s paper has a free Titanic remembrance coin, which will no doubt be of great value 100 years from now.

    The online version of the paper still has the picture of Rory’s ex girlfriend on a night out from a year ago.

  • BluesJazz One thing I kept finding with the BT site in the last fortnight, is, as I tried to access the responses to the titanic related pieces, was the absense of the comments already entered. They clearly had a busy time of it with all the negative responses from contributers. They now delete mine automatically as soon as sent. So much for free speech.

  • Framer

    Alan – you write of the “BBC NI’s web pages? Surely that public service content is as pertinent to the Belfast Telegraph’s comparisons’?”
    Your soviet-style or statist phrasing, ‘public service,’ suggests you can’t recognise the threat that the monopoly, subsidised position of the BBC with its 7,000 journalists (most of them not originating material) represents to all newspapers, and ultimately to our freedom.
    The BBC will prevail long after most papers have gone out of business while it continues to be paid for by a compulsory poll tax or levy (on threat of imprisonment) that it shares with no-one – not even C4 which produces vastly more, good programming.
    Why else is most recent news dominated by its unconcealed desire to see off Murdoch?
    The problem is nobody dares say anything (or comprehends this reality) as the BBC may punish dissidents, now or in the future when it predominates.
    The Beeb has a corporate memory. It can and does pay enormous salaries and redundancy deals, regardless of public opinion, to buy-off or stifle internal concerns.

  • Framer – I was commenting that the Belfast Telegraph’s trumpet blowing had neatly left out one of their significant competitors, a competitor who are described as a ‘public server broadcaster’. The pros and cons of a licence-fee/tax funded broadcaster is probably worth a post all on its own …

  • jthree

    ardmajel55 ‘So much for free speech.’

    A newspaper deletes someone who comment spams every thread on one particular subject? On the humanity! Let’s hope Amnesty organises a letter writing campaign.

  • Seems like the Belfast Telegraph is in dire straits need of a new get up and give ’em some fabulous news, news editor.

    Someone with a bit of drive and imagination.

  • Reader

    ardmajel55: So much for free speech.
    Your right to free speech doesn’t oblige anyone else to supply you with a platform.

  • sherdy

    Did Mike Gibson suffer from a head injury while playing rugby?
    Oops, that was a different MG. Ah well, the Tele makes worse mistakes.

  • Reader; I don’t recall claiming they had an obligation. They keep the platform open so I use it.

  • jthree

    Sock it to ’em Ard – there are many examples where newspapers have made big changes based on the enthusiastic whinging of an anonymous malcontent on the interwebz. Certainly I’d imagine most hacks take such comments very seriously and don’t regard them as the equivalent of the digital drek spewed beneath the average YouTube video.

  • Reader

    ardmajel: Reader; I don’t recall claiming they had an obligation. They keep the platform open so I use it.
    Then please explain why you said “So much for free speech.” No-one is interfering with your right to free speech.

  • jojo

    Remember when the BT did that massive campaign about becoming a tabloid, and said it had listened to its readers. Then its readership fell! Must have been some other paper’s readers it listened to!