Two rival national titles are launching within days of each other to provide Welsh news online.
Newsquest is launching The National on Monday (1 March) to mark St David’s Day, also producing a souvenir print edition with further special editions to come in the future.
Meanwhile, the publisher of regional newspaper the Pembrokeshire Herald launched the Herald.Wales website on Friday (26 February).
Herald News UK said its plans had been two years in the making but brought the launch forward from St David’s Day launch after Newsquest revealed its own project.
Both have created new jobs: three at Newsquest and ten for Herald.Wales. Both are expected to invest in more roles once the sites show growth.
Gavin Thompson (pictured, right), editor of Newsquest’s The National, said: “We believe there is a gap in the market for a quality national news platform that serves all of Wales.
“We aim to provide original and in-depth reporting packaged in an engaging way which provides value for readers and reaches new audiences.”
Newsquest has bet on digital subscriptions at 70 of its biggest websites and Thompson added: “As we grow subscriptions, we will grow the team.
“Wales is a great country that deserves a strong national media and we hope the Welsh people will get behind us. The more people support us, the more we will be able to do. We want to give Wales the news service it deserves.
“In addition, Newsquest already has dozens of journalists based right across Wales and we will harness their skills and give their work a national platform.”
Newsquest’s existing titles in Wales include dailies South Wales Argus and The Leader and weeklies The Western Telegraph, Barry & District News, Tivyside advertiser, South Wales Guardian, Powys County Times, and Rhyl Journal. The publisher’s around 50 journalists in Wales will contribute to the new project.
Reach, the biggest commercial news provider in the UK, publishes the Wales Online website and Welsh print titles including the Daily Post, Western Mail, South Wales Evening Post and Carmarthen Journal.
Thomas Sinclair (pictured, left), South and West Wales editor for the Herald website, said: “We are confident there is space in the market for a genuinely independent online news source for Wales to compliment what is being offered by the bigger players such as the Wales Online and BBC Wales websites.”
The ten new roles created are one office-based journalist, seven journalists based throughout Wales, and two web developers. Three people have also been promoted internally to serve the new site. Herald News UK already employs 20 people.
Newsquest partnered with New Media Wales, an organisation which formed to develop an independent national news service for the country.
However Herald.Wales political editor Jon Coles said he was “surprised and disappointed” to find out about the partnership, which changed the plans for his title.
“We were a founding patron of New Media Wales with whom we were looking forward to working with to provide independent news online,” he said.
Coles added: “Launching a national news platform is something we’ve been thinking of for two years.
“The pandemic and lockdowns made us put the project on pause. Despite Covid-19, our print title, The Pembrokeshire Herald, has bucked the trend of shrinking circulation and that’s encouraged us to take this next step.”
According to Sinclair, the Pembrokeshire Herald has an estimated 18,600 weekly print readers, up from 17,500 one year ago.
The paper almost closed in the autumn of 2019 after a major investment fell through leaving the publisher unable to pay its costs, but it was saved by a businessman’s eleventh-hour investment.
Newsquest publishes pro-Scottish independence newspaper The National in Scotland but said The National Wales would be politically neutral.
It will start with a strong focus on politics and issues around devolution ahead of the Senedd elections in May and will later increase coverage of topics like environment, business and culture as it grows.
Herald.Wales said its overall sentiment would favour an independent Wales but would report both sides of the debate so readers can form their own opinions.
Its website will cover breaking news, politics, entertainment, sport, and opinions and a “considerable sum” is being invested over the next two years to provide coverage in both English and Welsh, it said.