A new publication and market activity associated with the final move by Fairfax Media to a compact format in Melbourne and Sydney has re-energised Saturday newspaper publishing in Australia, already the second-highest sales day of the week.
The launch last weekend of Morry Schwartz’s new weekly print publication, The Saturday Paper, coincided with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday editions completing the move from broadsheet that began a year ago.
Steve Allen, head of media agency Fusion Strategy, said that the launch of The Saturday Paper should re-engage some advertisers who had left the newspaper market or who hadn’t advertised in that space previously.
“It will be a mix, but far more likely advertisers [that are] not often in the cut and thrust of daily newspapers,” he told The Newspaper Works. “We think this will enlarge the pool.”
Mr Allen said that the introduction of a new player in the Saturday newspaper market should not lead to any difficulties for the established papers in attracting advertising dollars.
“In a rising market, this play will not have a huge effect [on the other papers’ ad revenue],” he said.
“These guys at The Saturday Paper are quite canny at not playing the main game with big media agencies; these guys are far more client/brand focused. They are not trying to be like the other weekend newspapers.
“Given The Saturday Paper has a different ‘flavour’, it can potentially offer something a new niche advertiser may not have been able to specifically target before.”
Mr Allen said that Fairfax’s move to compacts on Saturday was relatively minor, noting that their Sydney and Melbourne metros were already 80 to 90 per cent compact on Saturday, because of the pre-existing supplement sections.
Fairfax editors told The Newspaper Works that, for the most part, responses from readers had been positive.
Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said that while it was too early to comment on the effect going compact would have on circulation and readership, he said the paper’s ambitions and commitments remain the same.
“The launch of the weekend compact edition of The Sydney Morning Herald went very smoothly and we’ve had some great anecdotal feedback,” he said.
“The Sydney Morning Herald is the same newspaper that our readers know and love, just in a more convenient size and with some enhancements throughout.”
Similarly, editor-in-chief of The Age Andrew Holden said that the move to compact presented no significant issues and the paper expects that reader responses will “reflect the positive response we have had to the Monday to Friday editions moving to compact last year”.
“Our focus on the local stories that matter to Victorians continues to be at the heart of The Age,” he said.
The first edition of The Saturday Paper was a sell-out, according to the paper’s editor Erik Jensen.
The initial print supply of 100,000 will be increased for the paper’s second edition, however the publisher acknowledged certain circulation and subscription issues will need to be addressed.
Tweets to The Saturday Paper’s Twitter account showed numerous subscribers complaining that their delivery had not arrived. However the paper has said it is resolving those issues and that newsagents have reported a positive reaction to the newspaper.
“We are happy to report that the vast majority of home deliveries were received as planned, and we are working with our distributors to ensure any subscribers who did not receive their launch issue will have the second issue delivered,” a spokesperson said.
“NANA (Newsagents Association of NSW and the ACT) and VANA (Victorian Association for Newsagents) are both reporting that the majority of agents sold out within the first few hours.”
The Daily Telegraph made some cosmetic changes to its Saturday edition to further position it as part of the weekend market and differentiate it from its Monday to Friday counterpart. The paper reverted to The Saturday Daily Telegraph as its mast, as it did last decade. One innovation was the introduction of section called KidSpot in the Best Weekend magazine.
Brett Clegg, executive general manager for News Corp Australia in NSW, told The Newspaper Works that readers and advertisers have responded well to the changes.
“The most significant response from advertisers and readers has been across our real estate launch in metro Sydney, the new Kidspot section and the now consolidated CarsGuide,” he said.
“Demonstrating a commitment to the print category and weekend market in the emphatic way that we have has been appreciated by all our stakeholders, including our own journalists and sales team.
“For us it’s not a zero sum game with our competitors. Rather, any investment in product development or marketing that sustains the enjoyment and engagement of weekend readers is a positive thing for the category as a whole.”
Mr Allen said the changes to The Saturday Daily Telegraph amounted to “no materially significant change.”
“In our view KidSpot, it is more about cross promotion,” he said.
To read more about the launch of The Saturday Paper go here, for a conversation with the editor of The Saturday Daily Telegraph go here, or if you’d like to hear Ian Moore’s take on the paper’s launch click here.
For more news from The Newspaper Works click here