When is an evening not an evening?

One is because the way you demand news has changed with the introduction of the internet and 24-hour news channels on TV and radio. Long gone are the days when the first way to find out about breaking news was when the Evening News rolled off the presses. For the past decade the majority of the newspaper has been written the day before publication anyway, so our website at www.eveningnews24.co.uk is the place to go for breaking news, with the newspaper being a more comprehensive roundup of local news not offered anywhere else. Another reason is that the economy is still suffering and we need to save money to ensure our frontline journalism is maintained for readers. Printing earlier helps us do that.

Here are two really interesting pieces from the Norwich Evening News, a local paper here in Norwich: A new era for your Evening News and Times change for your Norwich Evening News. The quote above sets out the paper’s arguments for its just-published move from an 8am printing time to midnight.The paper sells about 18,000 copies each day, which is impressive enough. I’m sure I’m part of the problem in that I don’t buy it regularly (when I do, it’s likely to be the Friday edition with event listings), but do check in on the website from time to time. It had already been reported by the excellent HoldTheFrontPage website that the publisher was changing its printing press to a ‘single shift’, which presumably is part of this wider package of changes.

The UK has a substantial local and regional press – 1300 in total – with under 100 of them being dailies. When I moved here, I was indeed surprised that a small city could support two papers – the morning Eastern Daily Press (amazingly, the 8th best selling regional daily in the UK), and the Norwich Evening News. Obviously, there’s some overlap between the two, but the latter also has a narrower catchment area. The owner is Archant, which is not one of the ‘big five’ but has had downs and ups over the last two years)

As far as I know this paper has a single edition, but does printing at midnight mean that it is, in effect, a ‘morning’ paper – especially as some morning dailies will be printed after midnight. (There’s also the model of the Ipswich Evening Star just down the road, which has some overnight and some on-the-day print runs). How valid is the morning/evening distinction today? Certainly, it could be important for competition law (albeit probably not in this context where both papers are already owned by the same enterprise). In theory, there might someday be an accuracy of description issue. But it also suggests some flexibility and change in the dominant model of newspaper publishing – will it solve the well-acknowledged financial and planning issues of the local press? The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons published an important report on this issue last year, Future for local and regional media, and part 2 dealt with the press. It highlighted problems with advertising in particular but recommended against subsidy. It also dealt with the vexed question of publications by local authorities, which is now the subject of dispute between members of parliament and the new SoS, Eric Pickles.

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