Regional publisher Johnston Press has delayed its planned series of newspaper launches and promised to give its journalists “the tools to do the job.”
The company is relaunching each one of its 170 paid-for titles as a part of a rolling programme designed to equip them for the era of multi-platform publishing.
It had been due to be completed by November, but most of the remaining relaunches have now been postponed until 2013.
Announcing the move to staff via email, chief executive Ashley Highfield said part of the reason for the delay was the need to ensure journalists had the right technology to help bring about the necessary improvements in content.
In his email, which has been seen by HTFP, Ashley revealed that by the end of the relaunch programme, around 1,700 journalists will each have received a new laptop, mobile phone and Google Mail account, while all editors will have iPads.
He wrote: “Remember we promised to provide our journalists with the right tools to do the job? Well, we’re going to link that investment with the next stage of relaunches.
“It means that as each paper relaunches we will be working to give its editorial team the latest technology. It makes every bit of sense to link the new technology with relaunch because we need to look at developing and improving our content alongside the new designs – and providing our journalists with the best and most suitable equipment will help us achieve that.
“However we will need more than a few months to achieve that across the group so we have decided to stage the roll-out of remaining relaunches over a longer period. That means some of you will relaunch in early 2013 instead of later this year.”
The first phase of the relaunch programme saw five daily titles switching to weekly, eight broadsheets going compact, three North-East freesheets going paid-for and six East Midlands weeklies given a radical redesign.
In his email, Ashley admitted some of the feedback from the first phase of relaunches had been “not so good” and that more needed to be done to improve content.
“A key finding from the first phase was that we need to do even more to improve our content – particularly where we are increasing cover prices – so each editor is being asked to provide a content improvement plan that will serve as a blueprint for their relaunch,” he wrote.
“We also need to think about what types of content will help us reach new audiences – a big focus for relaunch – while keeping our heartland readers happy. We need more research to understand what content people would look for if they’re to become regular purchasers.”
The original relaunch schedule, outlined at a presentation to JP investors on the day of publication of the company’s annual results in April, would have seen 53 more titles relaunched in July 2012, a further 37 in September and 60 in November.
However although the relaunches for the remaining East Midlands and South Midlands titles will still go ahead this year, the remainder are to be delayed until January 2013.