CSNA Annual Dinner: Paul Cooke outlines SBP story

Paul Cooke, MD of the Sunday Business Post, does not believe "print is dead"
Paul Cooke, MD of the Sunday Business Post, does not believe "print is dead"

The annual Convenience Store and Newsagents' Association dinner took place earlier this month at Clontarf Castle, and featured Paul Cooke of the Sunday Business Post as its guest speaker.

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22 June 2016 | 0

At the CSNA’s recent annual dinner in the luxurious surroundings of Clontarf Castle in north county Dublin, Paul Cooke, managing director of the Sunday Business Post, was the guest speaker.

In his speech, Cooke talked about his journey from chartered accountant to part-owner of one of Ireland’s most prestigious newspapers, via his role as one of the founding executives of The Star. He is certainly well-placed in the industry to identify its evolving strengths and weaknesses, and indeed cited his belief that the success of The Star was because of its dedication to premium content, daily.

On the topic of his involvement in the consortium that “rescued” the Sunday Business Post, Cooke talked about how he and his colleagues identified reasons why it was worth getting involved:

  • The paper had for a long time been an iconic and respected Irish brand
  • It represented an oppotunity to reduce costs and improve revenues
  • The newspaper represented a paid-for digital product, and was a dual purpose product, as opposed to other publications that are either print or digital first.

Cooke also explained how the SBP also acted as a sales agent for TG4, and also ran conferences and events, making it more than just a publishing company.

Accomplishments

Since the new consortium took over, Cooke revealed, the company had made significant financial progress. The 18 months to June 2013, saw losses of €1.8m, which had been subsequently turned into an €80,000 profit for the year to June 2015.

This financial progress was also bolstered with the newspaper being named Ireland’s Media Brand of the Year 2016 back in April, the first national newspaper to achieve this accolade.

On the editorial side, Paul Cooke told the CSNA members, investment in quality content and the journalists who create it had been key to attracting new readers to the Sunday Business Post. In particular, Cooke singled out the appointment of Ian Kehoe as editor and the recruitment of Tom Lyons and Ian Guider as senior business journalists.

Cooke also credited commercial director Siobhán Lenihan for the significant growth in commercial revenues over the past three years.

Print is dead?

It is a commonly held view within media in Ireland and around the world that “Print is dead”. In his speech to the CSNA, however, Paul Cooke refuted this view. He told the audience that with 450,000 newspapers sold every day in Ireland – rising to 600,000 on Sunday – the industry is in good health. Readers retain a close relationship with their title of choice, making a conscious decision to purchase it each day.

He also revealed that the Post had recently poached two journalists from popular online news site The Journal, suggesting that even among those in digital media, print is still seen as a viable outlet.

In closing, Paul Cook highlighted some issues that he had with the newspaper trade, which he believed could have a positive effect on sale. All paid-for newspapers should be displayed more prominently, he said, due to high margins in the industry. Also, free-sheet newspapers should not be stocked in stores, as they do not provide any margin and have the potential to damage sales of paid-for titles.

 

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