News Corp Australia returns to print this week in two regional markets it left when it closed more than 100 print editions 14 months ago.
However, the two mastheads with ‘daily’ in their titles – in Mackay and Maroochydore – will only return in print as weeklies.
Both will also face competition from independently-owned print editions launched to fill the void.
The Sunshine Coast Daily – once the country’s fastest-growing news brand – is edited by Nadja Fleet, who took on the role 18 months ago, only to find that the masthead was going ‘digital-only’. News has also included news from the area – and from Mackay – in localised editions of its metro daily Courier-Mail under their respective banners.
In a report in today’s The Australian announcing the upcoming relaunch this Friday – previously reported in GXpress in May – Fleet says there “isn’t a day when someone in the community doesn’t hit me up to tell me how much they loved the newspaper and to ask me when we are coming back”.
GXpress reported in May that a weekly print format was being considered for Mackay and the Sunshine Coast, and may be extended Toowoomba and Townsville, for which it would mean a reduction from current daily editions. Advertising sales would primarily be through call centres overseen from Toowoomba and Townsville.
Since the Sunshine Coast Daily’s print edition closed, several new print mastheads have launched, while in Mackay, a return of the now-weekly Daily Mercury may bring the total to five.
Mackay Local News is one of three new newspapers to launch to meet advertisers’ appetite for print. Mackay Regional News – supported online by a Facebook page – was founded by group of Mackay business owners and is locally-owned, as is the A4-style Mackay & Whitsunday Life. In May Local News publisher Andrew Stewart told GXpress the new independent’s free website had scored “ten times the audience” of News Corp’s paywalled site within its first three weeks of publication, “which is really upsetting the News Corp crew in Sydney”.
For News Corp, Daily Mercury editor Rae Wilson told the Australian that “while the local community is excited by the return of a printed edition, it has been made possible by the strong performance of the masthead’s digital news site”.
She said the audience had embraced digital news in the past year, “when that’s been our offering”. The success of the digital editions had “enabled us to reinvest in a print product weekly”, and “rethink the role” that a printed newspaper plays.
News’ national community masthead network editor John McGourty said if the “digital/weekly print edition hybrid” proved to be successful, “other mastheads might look at adopting a similar model”.
News has placed additional cadet journalists in the Maroochydore and Mackay newsrooms, neither with print experience… resulting in “shrieks of excitement” when they were shown the print dummies, Wilson said.
Picture News Corp Australia