English: Motorways ahead

Im seeing much more of this these days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve really put that old axiom to the test over the last month, as I have pretty much changed, or put in the process of changing, my entire life. And the life of my family too – which, I have to tell you, adds some considerable piquancy to proceedings.

Over the last month I finally started my new job. I’m back in Swansea, the land of my birth, and back at the Newspaper group that started it all for me more than twenty years ago. It’s now called South West Wales Publishing and as then, it publishes The Llanelli Star (where I actually started out) The Carmarthen Journal, the oldest paper in Wales, and The South Wales Evening Post, the biggest selling paper in Wales .

Its been a real mix of emotion for me over the last few weeks, as I said ‘au revoir’ to some old friends and started to make new ones (at least I hope I am making new ones!) After twelve years  with my last employer, any change was going to be dramatic, and this has very much proven to be the case.

I’ve changed cities, I’ve changed industries, I’ve changed companies, I’ve even changed cars.   I’ve met an entirely new team, with entirely new objectives. I have a new route to work. I sail past Cardiff these days and carry on down the M4 all the way to Swansea, some 60 odd miles from where I live.

That last part means we’ll also be moving at some point. I’m already missing the kids as my new routines don’t allow for the same time for playing that I had. That’s actually been the hardest part.

It’s been a huge upheaval, for me, my dear wife and of course the kids too. With the promise of even more fundamental change to come.

But even in this few weeks in – I can tell you its been so worth it!

I haven’t felt so invigorated for years. I have so much more energy for what I am doing, and everything seems new and exciting.

I loved my last job, the people that I worked with and the industry I worked in. But its all some how sharper at the moment. And ‘better’ – change certainly seems to be good for me at least.

Lot’s of people have asked me why I moved. I left a perfectly well-regarded industry (radio) at the top of my game and joined what most people would consider a declining one (Newspapers)

Newspaper colour

The way forward? (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

Let me try to give you some idea…

I am running a much bigger business than the one I was running. More than twice the size in terms of people and turnover. I have 25 managers in the team, that pretty much would have covered it for an entire department in my last role.

The challenge facing Newspapers is fascinating, and huge. Its been clear, since my arrival, news print still has more of an impact and holds more interest in the public psyche and indeed the media itself, that radio ever has. Even in my relatively small corner of Wales.

It’s been great to get back home and see some of my old stomping grounds again, and I think eventually  the family will benefit from being closer to our extended family, as will be the case once we complete a house move. An unintended benefit, but a benefit none the less.

But I have to say, it’s the scale of the ambition of my new employers that won me over.

In really simple terms, where we have been a newspaper with a website, we will become a website with a newspaper.

The task of transforming one of the biggest, most trusted media brands in Wales, into its full potential as one of the leading news websites in our country is too good a chance to miss.

There was a TV show on the other day, which I didn’t watch, but which posed the following question.

‘As newspaper circulation in Wales falls again, what does that tells us about the future of the Welsh media?’

It tells us that the Welsh media doesn’t know anything about the future of Welsh media, that’s what it tells us.

If I combine the old style circulation of the South Wales Evening Post for instance, with the average unique visitors to its website, you’ll see the audience for this paper at least, is stronger than ever. Certainly stronger that it was when I worked here 20 years ago.

The Welsh media is stronger than its been for years. Certainly newspaper sales are down, but audiences aren’t. Most of the press has now got itself a decent standard of online presence and a decent online audience too. And that can only get better.

Commercial Radio is booming with Wales regularly recording more radio listening that many other markets in the UK.

Take into account the brilliant work the publicly funded BBC and S4C do, both from a broadcast and on-line perspective, and the increasing number of so-called ‘hyper local’ websites that are springing up and you’ve a thriving media scene.

It’s just not the traditional one.

My job is to continue to drag my newspapers and magazines and websites, and the people who work on them, firmly into the 21st Century, but truth be told, that’s the way the world is going anyway.

And those that don’t make it will be left behind.

The internet and the disruption it had wrought has often been brutal. But I have always been encouraged that generally, quality wins out. Products that people want may have had to get better, but they have stood the test.

Great content always wins.

Products that people don’t want are dead in the water.

Too much of the old style media has simply not been good enough. Our task today is to not only provide the resources and platforms for our journalists to continue to be relevant and to increase our influence as a media owner, but to also get better at what we do.

Simply put, we need to become indispensable for our audiences.

And that’s why I moved over to Newspapers. How exciting does that sound?!

As always, I’d love to hear what you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me especially, what YOU think about the Welsh media scene.

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18 replies
  1. Kaarina Dillabough (@KDillabough)
    Kaarina Dillabough (@KDillabough) says:

    Well my friend, I don’t know much about the Welsh media scene, but I do know this: “Great content always wins”. I wish you every success in this new endeavour, and of course I applaud your courage, conviction and enthusiasm in starting a new venture. That’s what I love about the entrepreneurial spirit: we’re always up for a challenge! Now I can hardly wait for the time we can Skype and catch up on all the latest happenings. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Kaarina, you’ve a great way with words!
      And don’t worry, I don’t know much about the Welsh media scene either 🙂
      Mind you I just got the best comment on Twitter about this post, apparently it’s the most common sense post on the Welsh media ever!
      Thanks for joining in 🙂

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks for the comment Chris. I’m not sure we need to be afraid of this. We are all already monetising our content, and getting better and better at it. While there remains a question over the replacement model for the the cover price, I’m not sure we’ll find it in a straight swap with something.
      If we look to the music industry for lessons, we’ll see that CD sales were actually replaced by something else, not a different way of charging for the same thing, the content – CD sales were replaced by concert sales and T Shirt sales.
      Thats the challenge for any big money, but until then, the same model everyone else is using, from Facebook and Twitter through to the South Wales Evening Post – that is charging for eye balls – will have to do.
      The argument remains the same – get better at producing the content and the advertising solutions and the money will come

  2. Helen Bowden
    Helen Bowden says:

    The whole media scene needs to change its outlook on the way it works and who it attracts as its audience. The Welsh media scene is changing and growing by the month with new faces in the game and an ever growing outlook. Radio itself is changing with more emphasis being given to social media and internet and getting the two to work together. We also need to look at progressing the media scene by doing more to enhance our images and brands.
    It is a tough call. I always remember a story in a great film from the 80’s called ‘Working Girl’. “A bus of school children became stuck under a bridge and could not be moved. A child had the idea to let the air out of the tyres in order to lower the bus and move it along which they then did. And thus the bus was moved” In a growing industry and a changing one, we need to let some of the air out of our tyres and develop along with our counterparts and join forces where we need to so that we keep up with the demand and inspire our readers and listeners.

  3. Nat Reynolds
    Nat Reynolds says:

    Hey Tony! Welcome back to Swansea. What a great entry (as always) and I love what you’re doing for SWWP but more importantly the impact this will have on Swansea as a whole. It will get more businesses thinking about the changes to the media (and fingers crossed) take action. It would great if we could be at the same event soon to finally meet in person and have a catch up!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Nat! Thanks for the comment.
      It’s been discussed a couple if times over the last few days, but promoting Swansea and all it has to offer is clearly good for all of us.
      And In the same breath Wales too, it must be said.
      Yes, I’ll look forward to finally meeting up with you at some point 🙂

  4. Jerry Dominguez-Gomez
    Jerry Dominguez-Gomez says:

    Best of luck Tony in your new role. You seem to have a good idea of the challenges before you which is good and I hope it all works out for you and for media in general. If the journalistic skills of the newspapers are anything as good as your posts I’m sure that you will have nothing to worry about.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thank you Jerry, very nice of you to say. I am very much hoping that hanging around with all the great journalists I work with will have a positive effect on my writing!

  5. Eiry Rees Thomas (@EiryReesThomas)
    Eiry Rees Thomas (@EiryReesThomas) says:

    Glad to read that you’re enjoying your new post so much, Tony.
    The current debate brings to mind the books versus tablets theory. Whilst the balance has indeed changed, there is a market for both and as a writer contributing to both, I consider them complementary. I consider it a privilege to be working with the LIFE 1881 educational initiative in Swansea which is truly ground-breaking. There’s no doubt that it will encourage creativity in terms of literacy and creative writing whilst developing technological skills that will produce superb future journalists.

  6. Tony Dowling
    Tony Dowling says:

    Hi Eiry
    Well, I’ve just ‘googled’ the Life 1881 project and suggest everyone does the same – what an amazing undertaking!
    Its so encouraging to see those kids being prepared for a digital future in this way.
    Thanks as ever, for stopping by!

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