The loneliness of the profit-making broadsheet

Besides the FT, the Daily Telegraph and its now full integrated stablemate, the Sunday Telegraph, remain the only profitable ‘quality’ or broadsheet paper in the UK. On a recent WAN-IFRA visit we asked how the newsroom supports this (and how come so many people still wear ties?)

by WAN-IFRA Staff | May 27, 2013

As the Press Gazette reported last week, the Telegraph Media Group made a £58.4m surplus in 2012, a small increase over the £55.7m in 2011. This makes it an anomaly in two ways. First, its mainstream broadsheet competition are all loss making (e.g. The Times, The Guardian). Second, this is despite a decline in circulation revenue.

On a recent visit to TMG HQ in Victoria, we spoke to Deputy Editor, Mark Skipworth and found out how 2013 looks set to be another profitable year.

  • A seven-day operation means less staff. The recent merger of the Daily and Sunday teams meant some immediate savings – for example two environment correspondents became one, and the Saturday and Sunday magazines merged their picture desks. In fact there are now only three dedicated staff on the Sunday team including the overall editor.
  • Their digital strategy has been quietly successful, including the recent introduction of a metered model for paid content. Leaving the limit at 20 articles has limited the impact on web traffic which continues to rise. Unifying the online and print news lists has ensured there is no hierarchy. The only worry: digital advertising is still only 20% of total ad revenue.
  • Circulation has fallen at a slower rate than other UK papers. For example, ABC figures for April 2013 show 6% drop compared to 10% for The Guardian. As editor of the flagship Saturday edition, Skipworth was convinced there is a healthy future for the printed weekend editions.
  • As Skipworth says, “the luxury market is booming”. Support from upmarket advertisers and the continued success of the weekend editions has enabled the Telegraph to print 8 instead of 3 luxury travel supplements in a year. In Skipworth’s words, “There’s still a lot of demand for a lovely product on your coffee table.”
  • Readers are from a business background and appreciate the heavier coverage in the Telegraph, as well as understanding the need to support the business: they rarely complain about the need for ads.

But, as one South African colleague asked, what about the unusually large number of people wearing ties on the newsroom floor? Skipworth was not able to answer that, but we think it might very well be the secret ingredient in a profitable newsroom.

WAN-IFRA visited Telegraph Media Group as part of a WEF Study Tour. For details of the next tour to New York and Washington D.C. click here.

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