Interview with Maurice Gubbins, Cork Evening Echo
The Evening Echo in Cork, Ireland, printed a special edition in Cardiff, Wales, within one hour of the final whistle in the Heineken European Rugby Cup. According to Dan Linehan, chief executive of the Evening Echo, the newspaper used this high profile event as an opportunity to demonstrate how evening newspapers can be news breaking and innovative. “We got brilliant feedback,” Linehan said. The Evening Echo was established in 1892 and has a daily circulation of 26,496 copies and 117,000 readers each evening. It is part of the Thomas Crosbie Holdings Group. The editor of the Evening Echo, Maurice Gubbins, explained to newspaper techniques how this project was managed.
newspaper techniques: How did you manage to get your special edition on the street so fast? What equipment was used on assignment in the field and how was the material – text and pictures – delivered to the newsroom? Was the layout prepared beforehand? Was part of the content prepared in advance?
M. Gubbins: This was the second time we did the ‘immediately after the game live match report’ publication. We got the original idea in 2002 when we were returning on a day trip flight from Toulouse to Cork.
There was the usual in-
We put together a team consisting of the CEO, editor, production editor, chief sub, sports editor and advertising manager to look after the relevant sections of the project. Our normal Saturday offering is 88 page tabloid but in the interests of fast turnaround we decided to print a 40 page tabloid in Wales. We also made the decision to give it away free while our normal cover price is 1 euro.
We sent trail PDF pages to Cardiff from Cork and these were tested in Cardiff and worked perfectly so we knew in advance that our system could interact with that of the Western Echo.
The Cardiff Special Edition had a ‘shut down plan’ with advance advertising pages finished by Thursday, sports feature pages finished by Friday, fans and atmosphere pictures and reports built on Saturday morning. The complete format was five pages of adverts sent Thursday; 17 pages of sports features sent on Friday; 14 pages of build up and up covering from Friday evening up to half time in the game sent between 8 a.m. and 4pm on Saturday and four live pages immediately after the game.
The kick off at the Heineken European Cup was 3 p.m. so we were in the stadium from noon and took fan pictures, wrote colour pieces and build up and continually sent them to Cork where we subbed and handled them, built pages and transmitted them in PDF format back to Cardiff for printing with the Western Mail and Echo.
By half time, we had four pages open and worked on building different versions of these as the game progressed. When the final whistle finished we had a team working on the open pages; page one had the Peter Stringer try as the main picture which was one of the defining moments of the game as well as a prominently displayed score line.
The game finished at 4.50pm and the last page was sent at 5.15 p.m., printing started at 5.25 p.m., and we were on the streets at 5.50 p.m. We produced 10,400 copies and they went like hot buns. There were 40,000 Munster fans at the game as it was one of those occasions where people waited to read your newspaper after you finished. We could easily have distributed 30,000 newspapers such was the winning feeling amongst Munster fans on the streets of Cardiff.
nt: What was the main purpose of this edition?
M. Gubbins: The main purpose of the project was to show the ability of the Evening Echo to react to breaking news and show our readers that we are the best medium for relevant news and sport, to move our publication from being the last in the written word queue (Sundays, Monday mornings and the Monday evenings) to the first. It was also an opportunity to show that the Evening Echo is an innovative newspaper that can react to events not just in our locality but anywhere.
nt: How was it received by the readers? What kind of immediate feedback did you get?
M. Gubbins: Readers were amazed to read their local newspaper in a different country with the full match report. We received lots of phone calls, emails and positive reaction as well as media exposure in various newspaper, magazines and radio stations.
nt: Was this special edition also a success in terms of advertising income?
M. Gubbins: Our advertising team sold a sponsorship package to a main sponsor, Cork City Council and also sold ROP advertising which brought in significant revenue. Cross selling took place across the Cardiff special and our regular Monday Sports Special supplement.
nt: Do you plan more immediate newspaper actions like this?
M. Gubbins: We are always on the lookout for other opportunities and would love to repeat the exercise elsewhere.
nt: Would digital printing be an option for the future? Why or why not?
M. Gubbins: Perhaps – newspapers must always look at opportunities to capture key moments and opportunities to promote their products and adapt to opportunities.
nt: What was the trickiest part? What recommendation would you give to other newspapers that would like to follow your example?
M. Gubbins: The trickiest part is making sure that the turnaround time is achieved, that printing starts on time and you can get your product back into the city centre before the crowd disperses. Cardiff is an ideal city as it is very concentrated and makes the distribution easy. Having a good partner to do the contract printing is essential, and we could not get a better partner than the Western Mail and Echo. Readers love to see their newspaper achieve something new, and it builds loyalty to the newspaper brand.
Page first published: 04.07.2006