It’s a new dawn, it’s a New Day, and I’m feeling… underwhelmed, with the new publication from Trinity Mirror Group.
There’s a funny meme from a few years back where someone’s father had tried to print the guitar tabs of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water from a YouTube video.
Now, clearly, you can’t print a YouTube video – it’s a video. Much in the same way as you can’t print a Facebook or Twitter feed, but this is exactly what The New Day seems to be attempting.
The Internet and social media are one thing, print is another, and trying to mirror the former onto the latter is doomed to fail because of how the news cycle works in 2016.
Think of internet news in terms of precipitation: solar radiation causes water to evaporate and condense before pouring down elsewhere, the water runs off and the cycle starts again.
In much the same fashion, a news event occurs, is evaporated into social media, condensed onto news sites and pours down into the printed press, before running off and being repeated endlessly ad nauseum.
The issue with the way The New Day is approaching news is not just that they’re printing on dead wood in the age of the smartphone, it’s that they’re only regurgitating small, tweet sized chunks of news that most can already, and will already have seen on their err.. smartphone. They’re printing old news.
In the little EdStone of mantras at the start of the first issue, they tell us that “by debating and discussing stories, rather than just reporting them, we hope you’ll feel well informed, not overloaded”, but the information is totally underwhelming: how can one be better informed by little more than a standfirst? It’s like picking the olives off a pizza, eating them, and claiming to be full.
Now call me elitist, but the way this esteemed title attempts to be accessible to the working class is irritating – it’s like they’re trying really hard not to be brash or obnoxious.
Despite not having a red top, The New Day is still very much a tabloid though: “we aim to write like we speak, because we don’t think we’re anything special” they lament, like a tiger whose stripes just changed.
“We’re just fairly normal people who want to create a paper you’ll enjoy”. It’s enough to make one’s stomach churn. The apologetic undertone. The proud declaration of dumbing down the English language, as if good articulation is mutually exclusive of the upper class – it’s a denial of their own prerogative. “We’re just like you really, but work in Canary Wharf”.
Undeniably tabloid, it really has the feel of one of those women’s magazines. Not a good one like Elle or Good Housekeeping, but one of those 50p checkout aisle rags, and instead of being jammed full of fatuous horror stories, this one has moral equivalence and unclickable clickbait.
The ‘exclusive’ cover story of the maiden issue is adorned with staged, sensationalist, photos of a young child carrying overloaded plastic bags and operating a washing machine for his bedridden mother. It’s hardly news, which is odd for a newspaper.
Throughout the paper there are tedious inspirational quotes, listicles and life hacks plonked next to celebrity Instagram photos and tweets. It’s all the sort of crap that again, one can get on Facebook without looking very far.
Their claim that “we want to create a paper without men’s sections and women’s sections” is clearly abject even from the first issue: an opinion piece about Cheryl whatever her name is this week and her young lover.
A horoscope section that tries to be tongue in cheek but has one biting through it instead. A barely readable piece about why women are so scared of proposing. These are typical of the current identity politics and misconstrued version of feminism that exists in 2016, where equality is synonymous with female supremacy and metropolitan elitism.Another claim is that the paper is politically unbiased – which is fair enough – but this comes at the price of having an air of smarmy Corbynism about it. Like the phone-in PMQs, we have David Cameron’s opinions on the EU juxtaposed against those of a secondary school art teacher. A blank space where they want “you to fill it. With your thoughts about what we’ve written”.
A few pages later a feature titled: Would YOU help a child being bullied? It all feels very overtly pseudo-personal. Think north London liberal elite – they might look and sound like they care, but realistically their concern is keeping up the facade of social justice warrior in a sad attempt to outdo their luvvies. That’s how this paper feels – a sad, patronising attempt at being something different.
Supposedly the boffins at Trinity that had the brainwave of creating a printed paper in 2016 listened to what readers of their other publications wanted in a paper. The New Day is what they came up with in a vain attempt to claw back the million or so people who have abandoned newspapers in recent years.
One assumes that what said readers wanted in the age of sponsored content and pop up ads is less adverts, which The New Day actually achieves magnificently. Clearly though, this is for one of two reasons. Either, while newspaper ad revenue is dropping quicker than oil prices, Trinity are planning to make revenue from selling newspapers alone, which is ridiculous.
Or, they couldn’t find anyone who was willing to advertise in a paper full of clickbait when online is so much cheaper and more effective. There were a total of eight adverts in the whole publication, among them three for perfume, one for Aldi and another for DFS, which again seem aimed at stay at home women – hardly gender balanced.
Trinity Mirror has the biggest market capitalisation of newspaper sales in the UK, but is adding just 13p of digital advertising for every £1 of print revenue it loses. Cynical maybe, but it seems like awfully bad timing to be launching a paper with such minimal advertising.
On the morning of the New Day launch, Trinity also announced their financial results in an under the rug fashion. Their share price dropped sharply, and my cynicism isn’t displaced when one learns underlying print advertising revenues tumbled 16.6 per cent. What are they thinking?
The Independent died just last week, signalling the death knell for paid print journalism. This new addition from Trinity is digging up the grave of the Indy and burying itself neck deep.
When a paper offers little more than the Metro and far less than the Standard – both of which are free – how does it expect to succeed in a faltering market?
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck, goes the formula for abductive reasoning, but in this case it’s flawed. It looks like a paper, but doesn’t really go beyond that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Some may think that judging an entire publication on its first issue is incredulous, but if it were a TV show, its future success and potential would be based on the pilot. They released the first issue at a massive loss for free to make an impact, but unfortunately, personally, it didn’t.
The attempt to bring something new to the table is admirable, yes, and as much as any nostalgist, I want print media to survive – but not like this: dumbed down, tidbits of condensed news-wire copy, social media whims and celebrity nonsense don’t make anyone any better informed. In the little list of mantras, the final one urges us to “give it time” as this paper “might get a bit of getting used to”.
Time is, as ever, of the essence, and I for one don’t believe they have much of it.
Featured image by Elliott Haworth @elliotthaworth1