Media: Mail on Sunday invests for future

The Sunday newspaper market is struggling. Media outlets are suffering dwindling circulation figures and journalists are having to cope with increasing integration between daily and Sunday operations.

The Mail on Sunday (MoS) saw a 3.4 per cent month-on-month fall in circulation in December, according to the monthly ABCs. But it remains independent from its daily counterpart, retains an impressive readership of more than two million and is by far the most popular mid-market Sunday paper.

To keep its readers, it has implemented changes, including moving the travel section into the main paper, expanding its arts and critics coverage in the review section and creating a new sports section. The male-focused Live magazine has had a makeover, with a weekly essay by a big name writer and a 'datagraphic' feature that explains an issue in a visually appealing way.

MoS editor Peter Wright says he will maintain the paper's readership by investing in investigations, while attracting a younger audience. 'We will be emphasising the content of our papers more in our TV campaigns. Our market share is strong and increasing slightly. If you continue to invest in content, you will be rewarded with readership,' he says.

The paper may cover a broad range of subjects, but its journalists are looking for something very specific.

'The news desk is looking for personality-led stories based around people its readers are likely to know,' says Mandate Communications head of media Nicole Martin. 'Always think about pictures and good supporting case studies, plus stories that fit the MoS' agenda and are likely to infuriate its core Middle England audience - the Big Brother system, the Nanny state, political correctness gone mad.'

Human interest stories, and those about families or pets, are more likely to get into the MoS than rival titles, according to Karyn Fleeting, MD of Tinderbox Media and a former commissioning editor at the paper. But she believes exclusivity is key. 'When I was at the paper, PROs made the mistake of thinking it was fine to offer the Daily Mail and MoS the same interviews. Don't,' she warns.

Martin agrees that having an exclusive story is essential. 'It is notoriously difficult for PROs to place articles in the paper because so many of its stories come from "tipsters", who are paid to feed it with a constant stream of scandal and gossip. Don't waste your time unless you have something exclusive,' she says.

And be aware of which celebrities will interest the MoS. 'There's no point phoning to say Katie Price is in your bar,' advises John Doe Communications account director Crissie Bushell. 'It's looking for royalty, society and fashion celebrities like Prince William, Princess Beatrice or Kate Moss.'

Coverage is aided by creating relationships with the journalists. While the MoS may be harder to crack than some, Tinderbox's Fleeting urges persistence: 'If you do get an "in", keep cultivating it.'

QUICK FACTS
Circulation: 2,000,473 (source: ABC Dec 2009)
Frequency: Weekly
Website: mailonsundaymedia.com
Launched: 1982
Demographic split of MoS readers: Men 49%; women 51%; ABC1 67%
Owner: Associated Newspapers
Contact: 020 7938 6000

A MINUTE WITH ... PETER WRIGHT, EDITOR, THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

- How does your editorial agenda differ from the Daily Mail?

We place more of an emphasis on setting the agenda. Our readership is younger and more upmarket.

- What is your ideal story?

The best stories are those where you think, "how on earth did that happen? I can't believe it." For a Sunday paper, the best stories are out of the blue and unexpected.

- What opportunities are there for PROs?

In PR terms, 50 per cent of what we do is the magazines, rather than the newspaper. We have a much broader range of opportunities, more interviews, both magazines carry lots of product-related features, and there's a lot of opportunity if you're representing an individual or a business. We can print high quality pictures on good paper to accompany the piece.

- What can PROs do to make life easier for you?

They need to recognise that if you want to get something in, there has to be a story. Not necessarily a shock-horror story; we like heart-warming stories, those that make you laugh. Also, we've all had the experience of going to an interview and the interviewee wants to say nothing but still be in the paper. If you want something to be featured, you have to give something.

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