The Changing Face of the Western Morning News

If you believe the headlines, the traditional newspaper is on its way out. The rise of digital news platforms and social media has changed the way find and read the news.  As a result, newspaper circulations have dwindled, newsrooms have shrunk and many of our daily papers have switched to weeklies.

But the Western Morning News (WMN), our region’s flagship daily covering the news from Penzance to Taunton, seems to be bucking this trend, having launched a brand new Sunday print edition in June this year – making them one of the only daily papers to publish an additional, paid for print title in recent years.

Last week, we were invited to meet with Bill Martin editor of the WMN at a PR event hosted by Astley Media.  This was a great opportunity to find out exactly how the paper is adapting to the new age of publishing, get an insight into its new Sunday edition, and how the paper is looking to working with PR’s and businesses in the region moving forward.

Bill, who moved from The Herald in Plymouth to become WMN editor in 2012, started off explaining the big changes that have taken place at the paper, and the wider South West Media Group.  Previously owned by Northcliffe Media, the paper was acquired by Local World in 2012 and has undergone a major restructure, from the inside out.

Long gone are the traditional newspaper structures, with separate editors for business, farming, property etc.  Responsibilities at the WMN are now spread across a team of ‘content editors’, working on a range of stories at any one time.  These content editors are now not only looking after written content, but also, video, photography and more.

So what do these changes mean for PRs, clients and businesses in the South West?   Bill explained, that like most papers, the WMN is hungry for content and always on the lookout for interesting news and topical features.  They want great stories, delivered in a high quality content package to include interviews, images, infographics, and even short video.  But crucially, this shift means that quality of content from PR people has never been more important.

Content needs to be carefully thought-out, with a clear purpose and of value to the reader. And if it’s not, then don’t be surprised when it doesn’t appear in the paper or online!

The WMN is also making big investments to improve its website.  As 70% of all its web traffic now comes from mobile devices and with nearly 40,000 Twitter followers, the paper is also carefully planning the future of its mobile offering.  Something else to keep in mind when pitching ideas or send through stories.

Bill then went on to talk about the launch of the new WMN Sunday edition, which has clearly been a big, but hugely exciting project for the whole team. The WMN on Sunday aims to offer something totally different – a newspaper that people both want to, and have time to read on the weekend.  Looking at the new edition, it certainly has a very different look and feel to the weekday paper, and will focus on Westcountry living, health, education and travel.  There’s also a chunky business section, with features, opinion and discussion pieces.

But perhaps the most exciting development is the launch of West magazine, edited by Becky Sheaves – and very much like a Sunday lifestyle supplement.  Female-focused, West offers fashion and family features, real life stories, health and lifestyle all with a Westcountry backdrop. In fact, Bill suggested that the supplement has gone down so well with readers, they are now planning to add more pages, by moving the all important TV listings into the main paper.

All in all, the new WMN on Sunday means lots of new opportunities, to get our clients seen and heard in the region.  Here’s some top tips we want to share with you on securing coverage for you and your business in the WMN:

–       Stories are almost always published on the web first now, taking more precedence over print, so think about timing carefully

–       Get to know the sections (and who is writing them) before pitching your idea forward.  We’ve put together a helpful media profile below

–       Bespoke content is the way forward – so its always worth planning a great quality content package

–       Don’t forget to think about where content will be read, make sure it works for mobile too

–       There is still a place for the press release, but make sure it’s covering a proper announcement, event or achievement.

Many thanks Bill Martin to taking the time to come and talk to us, and to Astley Media for organising the event. 

Western Morning News media profile:

Founded: 1860
Geographical coverage: Devon, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset and Dorset
Political alignment: Liberal
Supplement sections:
Monday – Sport
Tues – Living Cornwall
Weds – Westcountry farming, WoMaN
Thurs – Business
Fri – Introduction to the weekend, what’s on, sport,
Saturday – Property, arts and antiques, Westcountry life
Sunday – Living, health, education, travel, business, West magazine supplement

Additional supplements:
WMN Annual Business Guide in July, Fast Growth 75 supplement, and the WMN Business Awards.

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

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