Groups in talks on new daily newspaper

 

The Sunday newspaper group Ireland On Sunday is in discussions with the British Daily Mail about jointly launching a daily paper in the Irish market. The talks are understood to be at an early stage.

Ireland On Sunday is backed by a consortium of Irish and Irish-American investors, headed by property developer and entrepreneur Mr Paschal Taggart. It is understood to have approached the British group in its bid to bring in a strategic partner to support its future development plans some months ago.

Sales of the Daily Mail in the Irish market are relatively small but the group has repeatedly expressed an interest in expanding its media interests and is said to be actively considering the proposal.

The two groups are currently understood to be considering launching a daily Irish edition of the newspaper together with colour magazine supplements specifically aimed at the middle market. Within two years, the two groups estimate they could be selling up to 40,000 copies a day in Ireland.

The new paper would heighten competition in the daily newspaper market in general, but would specifically be seeking to eat into the huge circulation of the Star - the joint venture between Independent Newspapers and the British Express Newspaper group. The Daily Mail has the third largest circulation in the British newspaper market, behind the Sun and the Mirror. It is published by the Daily Mail & General Trust, which also publishes the Mail On Sunday. The company reported profits of £92.4 million in 1997. Ireland On Sunday has surpassed all expectations following its launch last September. When first printed, its 120,000 copies were sold out and its current circulation has settled well above its original targets.

According to its first official audited figures in March, the paper has been achieving average sales of 66,863 as week. The paper had aimed to filled the void left in the Sunday market following the demise of the Sunday Press with the collapse of the Irish Press Group. The Sunday Press had a circulation of 150,000, and much of the Ireland On Sunday readership is understood to be drawn from among this group. The Sunday paper grew out of the sports newspaper The Title, which is now included in the Sunday editions as a tabloid sports supplement. It had achieved a circulation of 29,000 before the new entity emerged.

The consortium which backs the newspaper's operations has invested £4 million in it and is spending £1.5 million in the first year on aggressively marketing the product.

Among the columnists are the publisher of the Irish Voice in America, Mr Niall O'Dowd, the Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, and the former editor of The Irish Press and historian, Mr Tim Pat Coogan. The talks were reported in yesterday's Sunday Tribune.