Does the business community hold the key to saving regional newspapers?

Trinity Mirror’s Birmingham Post on Monday launched a daily digital standalone tablet edition aimed at the business community. Business Daily is priced at £9.99 a month and we understand a similar product for the Trinity’s Liverpool Post is likely to be launched in the next few weeks.

Though it will carry advertising – page sponsorship, interstitial ads and traditional placements – subscriptions are expected to provide the main revenue stream for Business Daily. Readers can trial the product for free and there’s a sliding scale for corporate subs. 

It’s the latest move by Trinity into new digital products, following the launch last week of UsvsTh3m, a mobile-centric entertainment brand.

And Busines Daily is in stark contrast to Trinity Mirror CEO Simon Fox’s thoughts on the viability of paid content for the Daily and Sunday Mirror.

Business community wants daily news

The Birmingham Post relaunched in 2008 as a weekday tabloid with a greater focus on business news, before going weekly in late 2009. 

David Higgerson, digital publishing director, Trinity Mirror Regionals, tells TheMediaBriefing the decision to launch Business Daily was driven by a demand for more frequent news:

Since the post went weekly, we’ve had significant interest from the business saying we still value the daily. It was simply unfeasible to bring the daily print version of the Post back, so we started exploring the idea of a daily digital edition.

Higgerson says Trinity considered publishing in the evenings to coincide with peak tablet reading times, but further feedback suggested publishing in the early morning would be more more useful for business readers. 

The business focused business model

Business Daily will feature business news at the front, comment and opinion, plus a “Leads & Deals” section at the back offering information on mergers, acquisitions, planning applications and contract offers.

Trinity Mirror digital publishing director David Higgerson tells TheMediaBriefing Business Daily needs a subscriber base in the “low thousands” to be sustainable. The project has a two-year business plan focused on building a subscriber base over the first year and maintaining it in the second. 

Trinity has hired two business journalists, a multimedia assistant and a subscriptions manager for the new title. 

Higgerson says he sees business news, alongside other areas outside generalist news, as a big part of the future of Trinity and other regional publishers. 

“It certainly should be part of the mix for the future. The regional media needs to make the most of its strengths, and expand on those opportunities more.

“At Trinity we are lucky in the sense we have six titles that resonate strongly with the business community and where we are looking at other business focused products.”

 

Patrick adds:

Is going down the business route the answer for regional papers? You can’t blame them for trying. The traditional advertising sources of cars, homes and personals have drifted away; Auto Trader, for example,has 45 percent of the auto classifieds market, across the UK, dominance that would have been impossible to biuld in a pre-online world. Auto Trader has just finally shut its print edition, such is its strength in digital, a move no major regional newspaper is close to making.

So business communities have all things you’d want when choosing an audience to publish to, in particular comparatively high net worth, plus a range service providers who would like to sell them things. But whether people will shell out £9.99 a month for such specific news and information in a tablet app format is unclear. National newspapers have managed to convert existing print subscribers and casual readers to tablet subs.The Birmingham Post has a circulation of 9,200 a week.

More importantly the shift from consumer to business-to-business publishing means shifting the emphasis from telling readers what’s interesting, to bringing them the tools to do their jobs better.

That’s just one of the many serious challenges facing Trinity as it rapidly builds its online and mobile publishing portfolio nationally and regionally.