• The Courier-Mail editor Lachlan Heywood talks about renewed focus on regional news coverage and locking up content
Lachlan Heywood’s time as editor of News Corp’s Townsville Bulletin has given him an understanding of the need for metro papers to report on regional news.
Recently appointed editor of The Courier–Mail, he told Mediaweek that was one of his immediate focuses when he took the editor’s chair earlier this year.
“You can do a lot of other things, but if you neglect doing local news well online, you will fail,” Heywood said.
“That was one of my goals when I arrived here: to reflect all of Queensland. It’s such a big state and there are so many stories to tell.
“Most of the people live in South-East Queensland, but we also have big regional cities like Townsville, Cairns, Bundaberg and Gladstone – and we also have a strong readership outside Brisbane.”
Speaking about what takes up his 12-hour working days, Heywood laughed: “Meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.”
The Courier-Mail is currently working on putting more than 50% of its content online behind the paywall, Heywood revealed.
“We are increasingly locking more content up. We’ve got a deliberate strategy that is looking at focusing on building more premium digital content. It’s important for the future success of The Courier–Mail, that we provide content that people are willing to pay for.
“We are looking at doubling the amount of digital premium content we have, which is provided from across the newsroom: features, business, sports, and news.
“We are locking upwards of 50% of our content now, and it’s paying off.”
Australia’s #1 online destination for news, news.com.au, produces its own content and also republishes stories from other News Corp Australia mastheads around the country. If The Courier–Mail locks up more than half of its content behind the paywall, how will this collaboration work?
“There is good dialogue with news.com.au. If we don’t want them to take a story they won’t take it,” Heywood answered.
“They are #1 and have a very important role to play in the national news environment, but, likewise, we’ve got an important role to play in our state. That’s why we are really working on our digital premium content.”
Some of the premium content may be available for free a few days or weeks after it’s been published – it depends on each story, Heywood stated.
“Generally, it will stay behind the paywall. On some occasions it will come out from behind the paywall. Often we will find that we may get a handful of subscribers one day, but two weeks down the track we will still get a handful of subscribers coming along [on the same story].
“As part of the Go Queensland campaign we commissioned a study by Bernard Salt into Queensland and its future. That’s been up now for over four weeks, and it’s still getting subscribers.”
In the conversation, Heywood recognised the subscriber model as one of the most important ways of bringing in money for the paper. But he also emphasised that print still has a lot of life left when it comes to attracting advertising dollars.
“There is still a huge interest in print, but it’s like any business: you cannot sit on your hands, you need to continually reinvent your product and offerings,” Heywood said citing the recent launch of the Qweekend magazine. The insert title is available with The Courier-Mail’s Saturday edition.
Being the only paper in Brisbane that publishes seven days a week, it has to cater to everyone’s needs, Heywood declared. It has to strike the perfect balance in tone between a broadsheet and a tabloid.
“We have to appeal to everyone, that’s one of the challenges: you have to be a paper of record, as well as provide what is more of a tabloid type of a paper which presents itself in a more enjoyable way.
“The Courier-Mail is as relevant as it’s ever been.
“We also have the great opportunity of digital as well where we are reaching 300,000 unique browsers a day.
“The brand has never been greater.”