Feature

Telegraph banks on news man to reach younger market

Can Martin Newland find a way to get sales back above one million? By Glen Mutel

The Daily Telegraph is faced with a complicated challenge. It wants to win over young readers, yet it dare not do so at the expense of its core, conservative audience. Changes may well be needed, but any shift in content will have to be a subtle one. It's a very delicate task. So it's perhaps surprising that it has been entrusted to a man whose nickname is "Knuckles".

Even more surprising is his actual name, Martin Newland. That's right, Martin Newland. Not Boris Johnson. Nor Dominic Lawson.

This week, Newland emerged from a five-month spell in the journalistic wilderness to pip the respective editors of The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph to the job of The Daily Telegraph editor.

Newland is now working for The Telegraph's proprietor, Lord Black, for the second time in his career. The two began their working relationship in 1988, when Newland joined The Telegraph to work on the newspaper's diary column, Peterborough. He rose to home editor over the next ten years, before being whisked away by Black to Canada, to launch (as deputy editor) the country's second quality broadsheet, The National Post.

The unsuspecting Canadian newspaper industry was hit by Newland's dogged commitment to hard-hitting news. He now brings these values to The Telegraph, a newspaper that has, under its outgoing editor, Charles Moore, been accused of putting ideology before news, and, as a consequence, falling out of touch with many sections of the newspaper-buying public.

Its circulation recently slipped below the one million mark for the first time in more than a decade. Admittedly, the paper has drastically reduced its bulk sales figure over the past year, but this does not disguise the fact that The Telegraph appears to be in decline.

Newland disagrees, saying: "We are the market leader by a mile; we reach two million readers a day, ABC1, influential people. None of our broadsheet competitors can hold a candle to us."

The paper has also been hit by the advertising downturn. Some observers, such as the OMD managing partner, Tim McCloskey, argue that it suffered more than its rival broadsheets, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent.

"The Telegraph has been hurt very badly by the recession," he explains, "particularly in terms of recruitment advertising.

"The personal finance market has also been poor, so The Telegraph has really been hit by a double whammy."

Earlier this year, The Telegraph tried to address the issue of its ageing readership, with a redesign and relaunch. New sections were introduced, high-profile new recruits such as Irvine Welsh were drafted in, while outdated sections, such as the Peterborough column, were dropped.

It received mixed reactions. While some praised the Monday sports section and the new Saturday package, others criticised the redesign for not going far enough.

The relaunch was supported by a multimedia advertising campaign, which played on the fact that, having survived a price-led assault on its readership by The Times, The Telegraph remains, by some distance, the best-selling UK quality broadsheet.

Newland likes the advertising campaign. He says: "The 'bestseller' campaign is very strong. It cuts to the chase. It is the rock upon which our broadsheet detractors founder when they seek to make out that we are in decline."

The campaign, created by Clemmow Hornby Inge, featured a cast of 30- to 40-year-olds, a demographic not traditionally associated with the title. "The challenge for The Telegraph is that it needs to appeal to young urban customers," the CHI managing partner Johnny Hornby explains.

There's a credible argument that the paper's older readers are so set in their ways that it would be pretty difficult to alienate them.

McCloskey agrees that the paper's target must be younger, first-time readers. "Advertisers do like The Telegraph because it has an older, upscale readership, and whatever anyone tells you, these are the people who buy cars," he admits. "But it should be attracting 30- to 40-year-olds instead of 60- to 70-year-olds, because those buggers are all dying."

Newland says: "I hope to take readers from wherever I can get them. The Times is a sitting duck. The Daily Mail also has possibilities, being middle England and strong in news. Some of its readers might find us a good, if slightly less spittle-flecked, alternative."

Newland is not ruling out a tabloid-sized version of The Telegraph. It is a move that would attract female and Mail readers, and he is watching the progress of the smaller Independent keenly.

In the coverage of his appointment, many dailies pointed out the more obvious differences between Newland and his predecessor. Newland is big and brawny (hence "Knuckles"), he swears a lot and is also a lot more secretive about his own politics.

He takes over the reins of The Telegraph at a time when the days of a guaranteed circulation of one million are gone. However, his flair for using news, rather than ideology, to attract readers should stand him in good stead.

The Newland file

1986 Catholic Herald, reporter

1988 The Daily Telegraph, Peterborough columnist to home editor

1998 The National Post, deputy editor

2003 The Daily Telegraph, editor

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