'New Day,' New Way: UK Paper Launches Without Web Site

The long, fraught relationship of newspapers and the Web took an interesting turn on Monday with the launch of New Day, a new British tabloid from the publisher of the Daily Mirror. It debuted with 2 million free copies of its print edition – but no Web site, and no plans for one.

That’s right: New Day is flying in the face of the media world’s conventional wisdom about pretty much everything. It's aprint-only strategy, but will have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. That also means no mobile app.

The idea is to force, or perhaps coax, readers back to print, restoring some of the old exclusivity conferred by the publisher’s control of production and distribution. That, in turn, allowed them to charge a pretty penny (pence?) for print advertising.

Indeed, the rise of the Web has presented the biggest existential threat to newspapers in their history. While offering the tantalizing prospect of vast new audiences, the Web has stripped publishers of their power to set prices and commoditizing audiences by removing their control of production and distribution.

It has forced them to compete against a flood of new inventory of varying qualities.

The trend has been especially damaging because newspapers’ digital advertising has failed to live up to the original optimistic expectations, in the famous “print dollars for digital dimes” equation.

In the UK, total digital ad revenues for national news brands probably edged up from around £213 million in 2014 to £270 million in 2015, for an increase of £57 million, while newspapers’ total print revenues fell by twice as much, with a £112 million decline.

This trend broadly mirrors the continuing decline in the U.S. newspaper publishing industry. Total revenues slipped 4.4% from $21.7 billion in the first three quarters of 2014 to $20.7 billion in the first three quarters of 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Whether New Day can succeed in enticing readers to pick up a print edition at a regular price of 50 pence per copy remains to be seen. The approach hinges on offering original, exclusive content that is literally not available anywhere else – a daunting task in an age when most big stories are covered, in some form or another, by multiple sources.

On that note, New Day got off to a strong start with a hat trick in its first issue on Monday – a cover story with a sensational but socially relevant scoop on children carers, documenting the unhappy lives of children as young as five who are responsible for caring for the adults in their lives.

It also offered more typical tabloid fare, like the (possibly elaborately scripted) pop romance between boy band One Direction and girl band Girls Aloud.

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