Credit: By Alex Liivet on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

“Is there a niche for print in a world where media consumption is increasingly digital?”

That is the question The Liverpool Echo, a 137 year-old title owned by Trinity Mirror, asked itself in 2015, upon realising its local news coverage was no longer reflecting the modern city it served and its readers.

The Echo’s editor-in-chief, Alastair Machray, and his team, came up an audience research initiative to not only find out why people were unhappy with the paper but to also incorporate their suggestions in a refreshed version of the title.

The main findings were: people were often left feeling depressed and helpless in the face of bad news occurring in their area; readers were only buying the paper because they had a history with the brand due to their family buying it, but they felt it was not serving their interests; or they saw it as old news.

“It became clear that people did not want the Echo in the measure in which we were giving it to them,” said Machray, speaking at the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in London today (24 May).

“At the time, the city bore little resemblance to the journalism we were giving our readers, so we decided to inject some pride and positivity into The Liverpool Echo.”

Based on these finding, the team also asked for feedback from its readers – in print, on social media, using radio and through newsletters.

The audience wanted less reporting on crime, and more reporting on cultural events and restaurant launches in the city, something they “saw as news, not as ‘what’s on’ content.”

Based on the feedback, the revamped Echo relaunched almost a year ago, at the end of June 2015.

Machray also explained the paper’s new look and approach to news and coverage has also made it more popular with advertisers as the title’s circulation has “stabilised”.

Given the success of the project, the initiative is to be expanded to the Echo’s sister titles in Cardiff, Newcastle and Manchester.

“We wanted to assure people the vision of change was not a fixed thing, but a direction.

“Newsrooms are big ships to turn in the water, but the message we tried to get across was that our audience told us what they wanted, we were just the caretakers of the property."

  • Rob Hammond, head of SEO at Trinity Mirror, will be speaking about the organisation's approach to analytics and distributed news on Google Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Articles at newsrewired on July 20. Find out more.

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