'Digital revolution' of the newspaper industry

Some of the newspapers published in Wales

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As the newspaper group Trinity Mirror - whose Welsh titles include the Western Mail and the Daily Post - reports a 2.5% increase in annual profits but says it plans to save an extra £10m a year, BBC Wales' arts and media correspondent Huw Thomas analyses the changes and the challenges for the Welsh newspaper industry.

Trinity Mirror's financial results follow the publication of statistics which show more and more of us are choosing to read stories online, and for free, instead of buying a paper.

The information superhighway got off to a slow, noisy start.

But today, for most of us, it is a speedier solution, delivering the world to our laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers.

At the Evening Post in Swansea, a fast connection is vital for the newspaper to source its stories, and send them to the printers.

It is the paper with the biggest circulation in Wales, but like the rest of the industry, sales are falling, as readers go online instead.

Jonathan Roberts is a week into his new job as editor and said the hard copy newspaper still had a role.

Start Quote

The regional media industry as a whole is undergoing a period of transformation - not evolution but revolution”

End Quote Jonathan Roberts Editor of Swansea Evening Post

"All the content is produced in one newsroom but of course it is destined for very different mediums and people access that content for different reasons," said Mr Roberts.

"People go online to be entertained, whereas people pick up a newspaper for a reading experience essentially, they want to take their time, go for a cup of coffee to sit down and enjoy reading the stories.

"Whereas online they are looking for different kinds of content really - shorter stories, video, pictures, audio offerings as well so it is a very different market but again it is using the same content."

As newspaper circulations fall, the Evening Post's online visitors soar.

In the second half of last year, it averaged over 380,000 unique visitors to its website every month - an increase of 65% on the year before.

Visitors were up at the websites of the Western Mail and the Daily Post as well.

Wales Online - which hosts stories from the Western Mail, as well as the South Wales Echo and the valleys papers - averaged 1.4 million visitors a month, a rise of almost 30%.

Daily Post drew 378,000 to its pages every month - a rise of 28%.

The stats are impressive - but making money out of them is hard work.

Papers are resistant to charging for access to their content, leaving the advertising market the best source of funds.

Marc Webber is a media analyst and was a sub-editor for The Sun's online site.

"The reason why they're not making much money out of digital technology at the moment, is that you have sales teams in newspapers that are quite frankly used to selling spot ads and classified advertising," he said.

"They're not used to selling banner advertising, they're not used to selling engaging multi-platform solutions for advertising like video and all those sorts of things.

"And quite frankly until you have sales teams in these companies that know how to make money out of digital you will always have the gap between making a profit out of it and a rising amount of people using it."

Changing priorities

Newspaper owners insist they are adapting their business models to make money online.

The past 10 years has seen some titles disappear completely, while the rest deal with a new reality - a readership with the ability to find everything they need at the touch of a button.

The Evening Post's Mr Roberts added: "The regional media industry as a whole is undergoing a period of transformation - not evolution but revolution.

"I think previously we have seen ourselves as a newspaper with a website, now we're a digital media business with a newspaper."

Newspapers are not giving up on their traditional formats.

In recent weeks, a turf war has broken out in Swansea - with the Western Mail giving away thousands of free copies in a bid to reduce the dominance of the Evening Post.

But there are still cuts and reorganisations in newsrooms as management adapt to changing priorities.

Trinity Mirror is consulting on job cuts and a new publishing system that will see many of the feature pages in its papers produced from one newsroom in Liverpool.

The future for newspapers may appear bleak - but with huge online audiences, making money out of their visits will hold the solution to their survival.

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