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Itís a wrap

Hull Daily Mail has taken an original national newspaperinitiative and is pioneering print in the regions. Mark Hargreaves reports 

THE front and back pages of regional daily newspapers have always been sacrosanct as far as journalists are concerned. A compelling front page is what is going to encourage the reader to buy that day’s issue and should never be compromised by too much advertising detracting from the power of the editorial.

However, the dilemma is that advertisers see these pages as offering the best possible space to promote their products and services and are willing to pay a significant premium.

Publishers over the years have been looking for ways to exploit the commercial opportunities of these pages without compromising editorial integrity. A thorny issue which until recently has been virtually impossible to resolve.A solution which is growing in popularity is the use of the translucent wrap which offers the best of both worlds: an innovative medium to carry an advertisers’ message while still allowing the readers to see the masthead and front/back page editorial.

One publisher which has seen the tremendous opportunities of the wrap is Northcliffe Media where head of commercial operations Chris Coward says: “We all know just how tough it is for the regional newspaper market at the moment. I cannot remember such challenging times. To survive publishers have got to look at original, exciting projects that can generate new revenue and encourage readers to buy their newspapers.

“We are looking to offer innovative alternatives to advertisers. It’s fantastic that in the world of print we are beginning to see really exciting new opportunities such as adlets/voucher ribbons, scented inks and giant xxl posters which we can now incorporate within local and national campaigns. The translucent wrap is one of the more exciting innovations that we can now offer our customers.” 

Northcliffe Media’s first translucent wrap was produced on 27 April for the Hull Daily Mail. Hull News & Media publisher Mike Pennington, pictured below, says: “At the beginning of March we had discussions with our printer, Mortons, who had established that they could produce translucent wraps. We presented the idea to some of our regular advertisers and Motor Depot was extremely keen to be the first advertiser to use the wrap.

Mike Pennington (left) added: 'We were extremely mindful of maintaining the Hull Daily Mail brand and making sure that the public could still recognise the masthead and the traditional front page.

“Obviously before any decisions could be taken we had to ensure that our editorial team would be behind the project. We have a new look editorial department headed up by editor Neil Hodgkinson who is extremely creative and very commercially minded. He and his design team played a major role in ensuring that the design was right for both the client and reader. We were extremely mindful of maintaining the Hull Daily Mail brand and making sure that the public could still recognise the masthead and the traditional front page.”

The wrap was produced on 62gsm translucent stock using standard coldset printing inks. Importantly, the wrap had excellent environmental credentials being 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable and made from only ECF and TCF pulp. There are no transparentising chemicals used in the manufacture of the wrap.

Mortons, which has been printing the Hull Daily Mail since last September, undertook significant pre-trials, but it was the first time that the company had run a wrap on a live production evening schedule. The print run was 45,000 with speeds of up to 20,000 achieved per hour.

Mortons operations director Steve Wickwar says: “We’d never printed using translucent paper before so this was a real learning experience for us.

“We spoke to other sites which had printed using the paper, before running extensive tests for the Hull Daily Mail wrap. It wasn’t just a question of running the paper on the press – we had to run it throughout the whole process to identify any problem areas.

“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was paper curl. We found that the translucent paper curled a tremendous amount that led to unsightly creasing on the wrap and struggled to find a solution.

“We finally discovered that speed was the issue and that by reducing the speed to 22,000 copies an hour it gave the paper time to flatten out during the delivery process. We also found that due to the special characteristics of translucent paper we had to use a lot less ink, probably around 50 per cent less.

“Everyone has been delighted with the results and I’m pretty confident that we’ll see the Hull Daily Mail running more translucent wraps soon.

“In general we’re finding that there’s a lot of demand for creative print, especially with large posters which are great for sports and pop music material and also the use of Post-It-type stickers (called Memosticks at Mortons) are on the increase.”

Commercial artists created the wrap artwork in conjunction with the Hull Daily Mail’s head of design in editorial. It was two separate pieces of artwork, one which appeared on the normal newsprint front page. The design had to be complementary to the stories that ran on the night of the 27th, meaning that shape of the artwork needed careful consideration.

It was important that the paper’s readers did not object to the wrap and the team behind the project was pleased that sales did not move up or down. Pennington says: “One funny comment was overheard in a local supermarket made by a reader who had bought the paper and thought it was very good of the Hull Daily Mail to make the paper water resistant as it had rained for most of the day! Of course we always have the best interests of our readers at heart but that would have been a step too far …”

The advertiser, Motor Depot, was delighted with the response to the wrap and reported that it had one of its busiest weekends for years.The Hull Daily Mail has been able to sell the wrap at a significant premium and is now planning more, with two currently in the pipeline.

Coward says: “We are convinced that this type of innovation is key to the successful future of our newspapers. We’ve got to show advertisers and readers alike a fresh, exciting approach to newspaper publishing. Northfcliffe has now sub-contracted its national sales operation to AMRA which is selling these options as part of a broader nationwide coverage. We are working actively through our own and third party printers to be as flexible as possible in these areas. This could even involve moving titles between presses to maximise commercial opportunities.”

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