Noel Doran: 'Once the troubles had ended, we broadened our horizons'

The editor of The Irish News tells Matthew Bell how his paper has bucked the sales trend

There is no champagne on ice and he has no plans for a party, but Noel Doran could be forgiven for raising a small glass next month to mark his 10th anniversary as editor of The Irish News.

According to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), his paper has once again bucked the downward trend among regional titles by showing a sales increase in the second half of last year. At 0.1 per cent, the rise may seem small, but it is impressive given the uniquely tough climate in which all local papers are currently operating, with equivalent titles in Scotland such as The Scotsman and The Herald experiencing double-figure percentage losses and record circulation lows.

"In the context, it's good news," admits Doran, although he is reluctant to revel in any glory. "The paper is more than the work of any individual and the News is more than a newspaper – it is central to the community." Largely, this is the Catholic community of Northern Ireland, which makes up about 43 per cent of the population. In a heavily partisan press, The Irish News is the leading voice of moderate nationalism, squared against The Protestant Newsletter, and with the Belfast Telegraph somewhere in between. With an average daily circulation of 47, 819, the News is the second most-read paper in Northern Ireland after the Belfast Telegraph, owned by Independent News & Media.

The Irish News has undergone a considerable reinvention since Doran became editor, a year after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. "Once the troubles had ended, we had to broaden our horizons," he recalls. Doran responded by creating a business desk and recruiting health and education correspondents. Sport was also made a priority.

Latterly the News has been unusual in refusing to give in to the widely held assumption that newspapers must give away their content for free on the internet. "If you're in an area where there is online advertising, you can afford to do that," he says. "But in Northern Ireland it is very, very hard to find – online ad revenue simply does not exist here. So we charge a £65 annual subscription. We don't have a huge number of subscribers, but the revenue certainly helps. I'm happy we have a reasonable website, but we can't compare with any of the London nationals."

The News is also a curiosity in being entirely owned by one family, the Fitzpatricks, who bought it in the early 1980s. Despite this old-fashioned management structure, the paper has not been afraid to take risks, switching from a broadsheet to a midsized Berliner format in 2000, five years before The Guardian. The readers welcomed the move, and subsequent market research showed they were in favour of an even smaller format, prompting a second downsizing in 2005,.

"The Irish News has been very clever," says Paul Moore, a media commentator and lecturer at Queen's University Belfast. "It has evolved to combine its core product of hard news with enhanced lifestyle, sport and celebrity coverage in a coherent way. But what really sets the News apart is that it was the first paper in Ireland to realise the importance of airing views it didn't necessarily agree with. Anecdotally I would say that quite a few Protestants read the paper."

The News stretches back to the time of Charles Parnell, who led the campaign for home rule in the late 19th century. When his party split in 1891 over revelations of his extramarital affair, the paper was launched as the voice of opposition, in reaction to the Belfast Morning News' unwavering support of Parnell. When Parnell died later that year, that paper collapsed, leaving The Irish News as the chief voice of nationalism, which it has remained ever since.

There is no shortage of quality newspapers in Ireland, but the News has carefully defended its corner, most notably against the now-closed Daily Ireland, a nationalist tabloid launched in 2005. Reports at the time that the News adopted aggressive tactics to see off its rival were denied by Doran: "It just wasn't a good newspaper."

His formula is working, for now, but Doran is not complacent. He is already concerned about the next set of ABCs, which will reflect the response to last month's price hike from 60p to 70p. "We thought of going up by only 5p but thought that would actually annoy the readers more." A recent diary item suggested he might be ready to move on. "There's no substance to it," he says, adding perhaps more enigmatically: "There are no circumstances I can think of under which I would want to leave." For the Fitzpatrick family, that must be cause for celebration.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Head of Marketing - London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketing Manager / Dig...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week