A newspaper dubbed a “national for the north” launched in the UK on Monday in the latest attempt by pub’lishers to find fresh ways to shore up falling sales.
The creation of 24: The North's National, which has a print run of 30,000, comes despite the demise of New Day, a newspaper launched by Trinity Mirror this year, after just 50 days
The family-owned publisher behind 24 said it would aim to take a northern slant on national news and would be available only in Cumbria, Northumberland and parts of southern Scotland and Lancashire, avoiding big cities where competition is fierce. 24 costs 40p, has 40 pages and puts heavy emphasis on sports coverage.
David Helliwell, editorial director of CN Group, the publisher, said: “Millions of newspapers are sold in the UK every week and people still want their daily fix of a newspaper.
“We have a northern slant on national stories. So we will take a northern court case rather than one in Cambridge. We will write about the north-south divide from the perspective of the north, not the south-east.”
In common with all publishers, circulation and advertising at CN Group has fallen because of online competition. National newspaper sales have halved since 2000 to about 8m daily.
New Day, priced at 50p, needed to sell 200,000 copies a day to break even but fell far short and closed last month. Analysts estimated it sold about 40,000 daily. The print edition of the Independent has also shut this year, while other publishers have been hit hard by a sharp decline in print advertising.
UK national newspapers have reduced northern staffing in recent years. While the Guardian has four journalists in Manchester, the Times and Telegraph have no full-time northern correspondents. The FT has two reporters in the region and i, the tabloid owned by Johnston Press, has one.
Mr Helliwell said 24 was influenced by Metro - the free sheet aimed at commuters in London and other big cities - and has targeted an area where it does not circulate. It hoped to attract advertisers who used Metro but wanted national coverage. BT and British Gas took space in the first edition on Monday.
The main story in the first edition was about football hooliganism, and highlighted a 12-year-old boy who was given a banning order after a Newcastle/Sunderland derby.
While almost all content comes from the Press Association, the paper will be edited from a northern viewpoint. The publication will also use the 100 journalists in CN’s own newsrooms - CN Group owns two daily and several weekly titles in Cumbria as well as two radio stations. 24 has limited online coverage but subscribers can pay for a daily digital edition.
Mr Helliwell said: “All media groups are looking at what they should do to get new audiences, to see what appeals.” He said it hoped a “few per cent” of those in the circulation area bought the publication.
Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis said there was a market for northern news. But while CN Group had kept costs to a minimum, there was still a risk.
“They are trying to recapture a market that has switched habits. People no longer go into a newsagent every morning and pick up a newspaper. You are asking people to switch back and that is very hard.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016