Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Farewell to the Enquirer

Earlier this year, I was asked to write a weekly political column for the North-West Enquirer, a new weekly regional newspaper based in Manchester. It was a high quality product with which I am very proud to have been associated over the past six months.

Against the backdrop of long-term decline in the newspaper industry, it was a very brave experiment of founders Nick Jaspan and Bob Waterhouse to launch such a paper at this time. Some would say it was foolhardy, but I for one thought that developing a paper as a niche publication might just work in today's increasingly fragmented market.

Sadly, it didn't, and the paper was placed in administration yesterday afternoon after a refinancing package collapsed. The timing was particularly sad in view of the fact that next week's Labour Party Conference is in Manchester and offered great potential for the kind of serious regional-national coverage to which the paper aspired.

I had already written my column for this week, which both looks ahead to the conference and focuses on what seems to me to be the highly damaging issue for New Labour of proposed hospital closures. You can read it in full on my Companion Blog by clicking HERE.

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skipper said...

Sorry to hear it didn't make it but can't say I'm surprised. BTW is Nick Jaspan related to Andrew Jaspan, who also used to edit a Manchester based publication in the 80s? It was not a bad newspaper at all but the niche was so tiny it would seem.

David said...

HI Paul,

I too was sorry to hear what had happened, because I had enjoyed reading it (even if I disagreed with some of what you wrote).

The sad thing was that, away from journalist friends, no-one seemed to know about it.

Anonymous said...

David hit the nail on the head here. Odd though it seems, papers dreamed up by journalist and run by journalists rarely work and history is littered with apparently great papers that went bang because the readers didn't share their enthusiasm.

There was never a market for the Inquirer, or at least not one that wasn't already satisfied by other general and niche publications that are closer to the action.

Competition for readers' time is now immense (both from other publications and activities other than reading) and the idea that people in the upper echelons of social groupings would have time to sit down and wade through another load of long articles was fanciful (no matter how well-wrought they were).

Neither is the North West that homogenous entity the Inquirer's title seemed to suggest. How many people actually identify with the 'North West'? It's just another Government planning entity, a concept which is usually enough to put most people off. (I note, Paul, that you live in Derbyshire, not the East Midlands).

There are already penty of quality weeklies around. Some are traditional weekly papers that do a decent job whether parish pump or planning committee. The others are political and economic heavyweights that drink their circulation from a big, national pool.

I'm sorry for the people who've lost their jobs, but the Inquirer did bloody well to get private cash backing. Let's hope journalism learned a lesson burning its way through it.


Anonymous said...

i was in Manchester last week and picked up a copy at WHS at Piccadilly Station. I thought it was a good paper, although a bit 'worthy'. It seemed to have a good level of advertising support via job adverts and corporate promo, so it came as a bit of a surprise to hear that it might be going under. I would have thought that in the finance and public sector world in Manchester alone there would have been enough readers to sustain it. You say it has gone into administration, so it may be possible that someone else might take it on. Let us hope so.