A tale of two titles: one closing this week, one celebrating its digital re-invention

The demise of one publication, the Liverpool Post, and the endurance of another, the British Journal of Photography, highlight the importance of taking bold steps toward digital transformation.

The 1850s must have been a good decade for publishing. In 1854, the British Journal of Photography (BJP) launched, and the Liverpool Post followed the next year. Just short of 160 years later, the two publications have enjoyed mixed fortunes during the past couple of weeks.

For the Liverpool Post, it’s the Last Post, as the newspaper’s publisher, Trinity Mirror, announced it would cease publication on December 19, after 158 years.

The newspaper originally launched as a morning daily newspaper but, between 2005 and 2011, saw sales fall from more than 20,000 copies a day to just over 6,000 copies a day. And despite a relaunch in January 2012 as a weekly, the presses will roll for the last time on December 19.

The BJP also has endured hard times of late. In 2011, it was looking at falling circulation and declining ad revenues. The difference was that it took a bold step to do something about it, creating a new quarterly edition, tailor-made for the iPad.

The magazine’s publishers, Apptitude Media, spent six months on the launch of the iPad version, with a dedicated team of three and a wider advisory boardof 12.

The publishers were hoping to achieve 10,000 downloads in the first year; they actually got 175,000. It seems the marriage of a high-quality magazineabout photography with beautiful content and the iPad, was a highly desirable combination.

Within months of the launch, the app’s readership was five times theprint magazine’s circulation. And by the summer of 2013, the download count had reached more than 264,000, and the number of subscribers to the iPad app was almost half as many again as subscribers to the print edition.

The tablet magazine has picked up a number of awards; most recently, one for “most effective tablet application” from my own magazine. In picking BJP as the winner, the judges said it was as much for the way the title had reinvented itself, as for the quality of the iPad magazine itself.

In the age in which we live, this ability to reinvent yourself is more important than ever, as the contrast with the fate of the Liverpool Post shows only too well.