Seven Talks Up The Nightly’s “Mainstream Middle” & “Common Sense” Journalism As Boon For Advertisers

Seven Talks Up The Nightly’s “Mainstream Middle” & “Common Sense” Journalism As Boon For Advertisers

Launching a new newspaper in 2024 might seem, at first glance, to be a fool’s errand. The industry, and journalism as a whole, is facing several existential crises. However, Seven West Media, believes its new masthead The Nightly could make a difference.

Lead image: Anthony De Ceglie, editor-in-chief, The Nightly.

The context in which editor-in-chief Anthony De Ceglie launches his new paper does not look favourable. Half of Australians think society is “broken,” according to recent data and two-thirds believe that the economy is “rigged” to the benefit of the “rich and powerful.” Hardly the ideal sentiments for a paper that De Ceglie told B&T was hoping to reach “the mainstream middle” with “common sense journalism.”

Plus, newspaper journalism is currently wrangling with its response to artificial intelligence (AI), which with speed can replicate content from across the vastness of online newsrooms. News Corp’s Robert Thomson said earlier this month that it hopes to be a “core content provider” for the likes of Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google and that while it prefers “negotiation to litigation, courtship to courtrooms,” taking the group’s content without asking (read: paying) is “counterfeiting.”

So, how will The Nightly be different? And, perhaps more importantly for its longevity, how will it work with advertisers to reach that coveted audience?

“We want to write in a common sense manner that most Australians would agree with,” said De Ceglie, though he would not be drawn on the paper’s editorial line on specific issues.

“But federal politics can be very divisive because that’s what people think will get them clicks. Websites increasingly will write stories only for their targeted audience, whereas I think the general Australian is very much about common sense, fairness and accuracy.”

Sarah-Jane Tasker, previously the business editor of The West Australian, now editor of The Nightly, added that there would be a focus on politics and political reporting but also policy.

Sarah-Jane Tasker, editor, The Nightly.

“Policy is a really good area to cover and that’s where you can come down the middle with common sense reporting. Business reporting will be a main pillar for us and culture,” she explained, also citing commentary from expert reporters as a main selling point.

The paper’s founding editorial team will feature former Editor-In-Chief of The Australian, Christopher Dore and journalists including Sarah Blake, Matthew Quagliotto, Kristin Shorten, Wenlei Ma and Ben McClellan.

Contributors will include David Koch, Mark Riley, Michael Usher, Gemma Acton, AFL great Leigh Matthews and cricketers Justin Langer and Mitchell Johnson.

Readers will also receive two pages of content produced by editors of The New York Times International Report in every nightly digital paper — something De Ceglie hailed as a “fascinating” and “landmark deal” for Australia. The paper will also include pieces from right-leaning news and politics magazine The Economist.

Let’s back up and talk formats. The Nightly will run as an online news site but its main channel will be its nightly digital newspaper — a format that De Ceglie said he has seen a “real rise” in popularity during his time at The West Australian.

“One in five who now say they read the West Australian are reading it digitally on their phones. It’s the one thing over the last few years that has always gone up… and newspapers all around the world are saying the same thing,” he explained.

“People like the curation of it and the idea of page one, page three, page ten and the sports section.”

De Ceglie also said that more people are reading the news at night, rather than in the morning as in times gone by given the mornings are “busy” and “more chaotic than ever.”

These insights led De Ceglie and the team to think that there was scope to launch a new digital newspaper on the East Coast.

For advertisers, the idea of an engaged predictably available readership via the digital newspaper should appeal. As should the advertising formats.

“They know this medium, they know what a strip ad on the front page is worth or what a page two-three spread is worth,” said De Ceglie.

“It’s a premium product that is digital but is in an environment that they know and how to value properly. It’s one of the most exciting aspects of our offering.”

One person has clearly been quite taken with the reasoning behind The Nightly — Gina Rinehart. A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed in the Nine-owned Sydney Morning Herald that her company Hancock Prospecting had signed on as a launch partner. Does she represent the “mainstream middle?”

“I think she definitely appeals to common sense,” said De Ceglie.

“The reporting on that has lent into whether it’s a partnership or advertising. It’s purely advertising. Hancock Prospecting is a big advertiser, right across the board in Australian media.”

He also said that there were many other “big name” advertisers set to spruik their wares in the launch edition, though he couldn’t talk about them for commercial reasons.

“It’ll all become pretty apparent on Monday, there won’t be many surprises,” he added.

In terms of billing advertisers, De Ceglie again remained coy. While media agencies may know how to buy the newspaper medium, putting it in a digital format raises some interesting questions given that, when buying digital media for online publications, advertisers can see page views, dwell time and more — and check them with third-party sources.

That dichotomy of buying ad space in a digital newspaper, with a naturally lower reach than any purely online major masthead, might cause a problem for The Nightly. But, then again, it is always darkest before the dawn.

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