The Daily Telegraph’s new editor, Martin Newland, is taking on the tricky task of making the paper more appealing to younger readers while hanging on to its existing, older ones. He was appointed last week following the resignation of Charles Moore, and joins in the midst of a major shake-up of senior management. Former marketing director Hugo Drayton has been appointed as managing director, succeeding Jeremy Deedes, and managing director of sales Len Sanderson has resigned.
Newland has told the press he wants to widen the appeal of the UK’s top-selling broadsheet and lower its age profile, while maintaining its core values. Its sales of 929,000 are a third greater than its closest broadsheet rival The Times, but down from more than 1 million a year ago when the paper stripped out bulk sales from its circulation figures. Telegraph readers are mainly well-off, older, home counties dwellers. According to the National Readership Survey, half are aged over 55, and most are retired or not working.
It was under Moore that the paper began trying to move away from its “old colonel” image and to ditch the “Torygraph” moniker that has made many younger readers cringe at the prospect of being seen carrying it.
Attempting to get the Telegraph to appeal to younger readers may sound a bit like trying to teach Iain Duncan Smith to break-dance – a hard task that leaves you wondering why anyone would bother. Ageing middle England is a burgeoning group, part of a rising trend of a nationally ageing population profile and a growing army of well-off retired folk milling about the home counties. So what if youth brands such as Virgin Mobile refuse to run ads in the paper?
The advertising downturn may have hit the Telegraph Group hard – in August, it reported an 11.8 per cent slump in second-quarter advertising revenues to £46.5m – but the daily newspaper has a track record of outperforming its rivals. According to MMS figures, the Daily Telegraph took £127m of advertising in the year to August 2003 compared with £91m at The Times, £97m at the Financial Times, £56m at The Guardian and £41m at The Independent.
As Alex Randall, head of press at media buying company Vizeum, says: “The Telegraph does appeal to the more upmarket, elderly elements of middle England, but that is a market that is growing at the moment. The newspaper would be foolhardy to change things radically. It would have to change its position and stop being the institution that it is.”
But some would disagree that the Telegraph is “totally uncool”, as a modern young urbanite might put it. Moore, though himself famed as a “young fogey”, worked closely with marketing director Mark Dixon and ad agency Clemmow Hornby Inge to develop the newspaper’s branding campaign, using the slogan “Read a bestseller every day”. The idea was to make the Telegraph a “must read” as well as giving it a bit of excitement. The catchline now features across the paper’s masthead and, according to insiders, the campaign has managed to shift attitudes among young, urban readers.
“In early research, a lot of young Londoners wouldn’t touch the Telegraph with a barge pole, they thought it was right wing and not for them” says one source. “They hated the idea of being seen holding it on the Tube. But when we got those people to read it, there was a lot more positive response than you would expect.”
Still, Newland would have to change the paper’s readership quite fundamentally to win back brands such as Virgin Mobile, which ran some direct-response ads in the paper when the brand first launched. But Virgin Mobile brand director James Kydd says the Telegraph was the worst performer of all the papers in its direct-response campaign because of its elderly readership. “Newland has got an uphill battle,” says Kydd. “Things like the sports coverage does get a younger readership, but that’s just on Monday. The Telegraph has got such a strong archetypal reader.”
Newland, 41, began his career at the Catholic Herald and joined the Telegraph in 1989, working his way up to home news editor before heading off to Canada to help set up Conrad Black’s title The National Post, which he left after an editorial reshuffle when new owners took over. He is seen as having strong news values, and people believe he will put more energy into the news side of the paper and spend less time poring over comment pieces, a criticism levelled at Moore. This could make the Telegraph more edgy and appealing to a younger age group.
Manning Gottlieb OMD head of press Mark Gallagher says the Telegraph’s move to a younger profile is through a slow process of osmosis. “Newland’s appointment speaks volumes about the Telegraph’s intentions to carry on moving away from the old Torygraph image of the Eighties and Nineties. He has got a strong news background and that is a good thing for the paper,” he says.
Telegraph Group deputy chief executive Dan Colson is confident about attracting more younger readers. He says: “It is not as difficult a task as it sounds. There is a natural graduation process in the minds of people towards a broadsheet, and we want to make sure we are getting a fair share of that.”