So far I would have to say that in terms of news bang-for-buck the Herald-Sun is doing tabloid better than The Age does compact. It’s early days I know, but in Melbourne, at least, the News Limited paper seems to be ahead in the stand-out front page stakes..
Though, having said that, it seems that The Age has picked up some new readers this week. At my newsagent’s pick-ups of The Age have more than doubled and are now equal to, or a bit better than the Herald-Sun. That could be an anomaly; I live in an area where there is a likely majority of Age-types given the number of private schools, Merc, Audis and Beemers that litter the neighbourhood.
Today’s editions (Thursday, 7 March ) might even the score for the Fairfax Media title in the stand-out competiton; but the full page picture of Ted Baillieu on the Hun might attract the mouth-breathers who like big pictures more than big words.
At least today The Age has learned that headlines should be short and sweet, but four words is still twice as many as two. Yesterday (Wednesday) it was seven words in a two-deck headline for The Age and four words in three-decks for the Herald Sun; the Hun also uses a much bigger typeface.
The issue here is that The Age is trying very hard not to look like a tabloid; it wants to be a smaller broadsheet and so it’s front pages are text-heavy.
This is OK as long as Age readers are happy to have the key elements of one or two stories related on page one. The Herald Sun is sticking to its formula of fear and emotion being the main drivers of sales based on front page scans.
Wednesday’s Herald Sun front page was a classic in that genre it had heart-string plucking sick baby Linkin Fauser and warring bikies raising “Police fear public could be caught in cross fire”.
At least The Age was back in the game yesterday with its own Baillieu stuff up story detailing secret fund raisers and the ongoing fall-out from the secret tapes affair that ensnared the Premier and his deputy in a rolling maul that was getting closer to the business end of the pitch.
But The Age was always playing catch-up on the secret recordings story. It seems likely that the Herald Sun had been sitting on this little box of dynamite for a while and deliberately played it out as a spoiler to the launch of The Age as a comp-loid on Monday of this week.
That is certainly how a smart newspaper executive would play it, both to boost sales and to let the opposition know that life in the tabl-act trenches would be bloody and tough.
Today it just got bloodier and tougher because it is the first time this week that we can do a full comparison on coverage of the same story. It was an even playing surface for both titles; they heard about Baillieu’s resignation at the same time (about 7.25pm last night [Wednesday 6 March] and so had about six hours to get the story ready for this morning’s papers.
The Herald Sun is rightly claiming Baillieu’s scalp and today reveals how political editor James Campbell dropped the paper’s bomb on the Liberal party late on Sunday afternoon.
It was the Hun’s story; though as I mentioned, The Age did well on Wednesday to get its own exclusive angle of the rorting and alleged corrupt shenanigans at the core of Baillieu’s incompetency.
The Hun wins today’s battle because as the front page strapline says: “SECRET TAPES CLAIM PREMIER”.
Having said, that the depth of coverage was about the same in both mastheads and apart from the Hun’s own boasting about Sunday’s Spring street squirmfest neither paper had anything substantially new to add.
Friday’s papers will be telling. Does the Herald Sun have more dirt to dish?
If so it would be a hands down winner this week.
So for now, the Herald Sun gets to count coup, but The Age could have the last laugh.
If my newsagent is right and the new compact is walking out the door this week, then The Age may win the circulation battle.
The hope in the Fairfax Media offices along Spencer street is that novelty-factor sales turn into subscriptions.
There’s a long way to go yet before that score can be counted.