David Higgerson: Newspapers Must Listen, Respond and Delight Readers

Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum earlier this week, David Higgerson, digital publishing director at Trinity Mirror Regionals, examined how local publishers can succeed in the global media market.

 Mr Higgerson said: “Readers have more choice than ever before. It’s not just emerging media we need to be aware of, we have police forces who now report, we have councils covering their own meetings, and for a while publishing their own newspapers…Then of course we have social media, where pretty much anybody who has something to say can say it instantly and get an audience.”

Mr Higgerson said that around five years ago Trinity Mirror realised they had to change the way they covered news and embrace digital.

“The challenge for publishers is to create sustainable journalism for the future and we set about this by focusing on our key strength which is local knowledge but also by making sure we’re listening to our readers.

“In 2011 the Manchester Evening News came 33rd in Manchester United FC related searches. Today the MEN never drops below third in search rankings thanks to a fan first approach when covering football – we listen to what fans are doing and saying.

“The Liverpool Echo now boasts a weekly reach across the Merseyside town that it enjoyed in the 1970s.”

The approach Trinity Mirror adopted was broken down by Mr Higgerson in to three parts; listening to readers, responding to readers, and aiming to delight readers.

Mr Higgerson concluded that “For us life has never been more local and our ambition is to be part of readers everyday lives.”

Also speaking at the Forum, which was chaired by Lord Black of Brentwood, was Denise Turner, Newsworks’ director of Insight who discussed newsbrands and their advertising value. Citing their recent Effectiveness research showing the uplift advertisers get from including newsbrands in the media mix, boosting campaign’s ROI by three times, Denise concluded that “the pendulum has swung too far from print, and we need to readdress the balance.”