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No more dailies to go weekly this year says Johnston Press

Regional publisher Johnston Press has today ruled out taking any more of its daily titles weekly as part of the current relaunch of its portfolio.

Earlier this week, the company announced that the Halifax Courier, Scarborough Evening News, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Northants Evening Telegraph and Peterborough Evening Telegraph would all move to weekly publication next month.

But today JP chief executive Ashley Highfield moved to quell speculation that the move could be extended to some of its other daily titles.

In a statement issued to HTFP this morning, the company made clear that the current relaunch – which will continue at least until the end of 2012 – will not include any further frequency changes.

It stated:  “Five Johnston Press daily titles moving to printing weekly from the end of May will be the only publications to change frequency in the foreseeable future.

“A relaunch of the company’s 170 paid-for titles – announced earlier this week by chief executive officer Ashley Highfield – does not involve converting any other daily newspapers into weeklies.”

Said Ashley:  “We are continually reviewing our position and responding to changing audience demands, and while we can never say never, we have no plans for any more ‘daily to weekly’ changes.

“The relaunch is about combining fresh designs, improved editorial practices and the best in digital technology to make our news more current and enable greater engagement with both our readers and advertisers.”

The five dailies switching to weekly are among 15 titles whose print and online platforms are being redesigned in the initial phase of the relaunch – the other ten being existing weeklies.

A net reduction of up to 50 editorial jobs is expected as a result of the frequency changes, with some additional posts being created in addition to those being lost.

Said Ashley: “These publications have a long and proud tradition of serving their local communities and the relaunch plans provided the opportunity to review the needs of each market to ensure this success continues.

“Combining a weekly newspaper with daily online publishing meets changing demands and allows each of these five titles to maintain their roles as trusted platforms for audiences to access and share information.”

The company said the relaunch of all 170 paid-for titles – excluding only The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, The Yorkshire Post and The News Letter (Belfast) – will bring improved designs and introduce new editorial workflows.

A leading international design company has been engaged to provide the new designs, and a professionally directed local marketing campaign will support the relaunch of each title.

15 comments

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  • April 20, 2012 at 11:49 am
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    The fact they’ve employed an outside design agency seems a bit of a kick in the teeth for their own subs (who’ll probably end up losing their jobs, anyway!)

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  • April 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm
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    Clegg, these changes will mean there’ll be just five types of pre-designed JP newspapers, with strict templated pages throughout.
    Editors are likely to lose access to InDesign as the bosses don’t want editors “messing up” the new look papers that they’re spending £250k on.
    There’ll be no room for any individuality in papers.
    And logistically it will be a nightmare. Eds wont even be able to shorten/lengthen nibs box or crop pictures on the page.

    Most editors loathe these plans, but the consultation with eds seems to be a sham as the propaganda from the bosses suggests everyone is excited by them.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm
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    Yeah, CEOs have studied for years to become world-renowned page designers so we should listen carefully to what they say.
    Oh, and there’s that “serving our communities” line again. No matter how many times it’s spouted out, it just NEVER gets old, does it?

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  • April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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    Pah! I was pulled into a meeting one Friday afternoon, along with 10 or so colleagues, and was promised that JP had “no plans for our year-old subbing hub to be further centralised.”

    The following Monday, our roles were at risk of redundancy, as it was announced that the operation was upping sticks and moving out of commuting distance for 90 percent of us.

    Thanks for your promises, JP, but I think they’re Just Pish.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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    I worked for JP until recently. Was told by someone very senior less than 9 months ago that it “makes no business sense now or ever” to take one of their titles weekly.

    They added that a 3 day a week paper would be feasible but would require a number of redundancies.

    That title was one of the ones that has just been moved weekly.

    Shows what a JP promise is worth.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm
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    CEO Ashley HiPad’s words about Johnston Press being all about ‘local’ are looking increasingly absurd, as JP becomes the most centralised local newspaper company in the business. Now for template ‘Metro’ papers. What must shareholder Sir Ray Tindle be thinking? Now he knows a thing or two about local papers, and makes enough money out of printing them (yes Ashley, ink on paper!) to buy into debt laden JP.
    HiPad’s web obsessed plans, and closing 5 daily papers didn’t do much for the share price, and no-one has made much money out of web news, especially local news, despite the hullabaloo that surrounds it from bloggers.
    Could these sweeping, irreversible changes to JP prove to be as troublesome as Tim Bowdler’s spend spend spend era?

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  • April 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm
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    The people running Johnston Press seem a very odd lot. First hand the company over to someone with little or no knowledge of the newspaper industry. Then after turning small evening papers into weeklies bring in a designer to make them all look the same. Well, I think that is the master plan. The problem is designers don’t sell newspapers, stories do and they come in different shapes and sizes. Oh, yes and if revenues plummet, as they will, don’t worry the internet will plug the gap even though no newspapers appear to be making much money out of it.
    And then we get the strange case of Northamptonshire. JP own two newspapers there selling a total of between 30,000 and 40,000 a day. Why not merge them into one title before converting to weekly? Kettering and Northampton are about 14 miles apart and I can only assume their ownership by the same company (JP) was a bit of an “accident” – ie somebody bought out two independent publishers.
    My personal view is that local newspapers are doomed unless they revert to local ownership happy with modest profits rather than big groups chasing impossible pots of gold.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm
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    I’m a sub on one of the dailies I presume will get one of these new templated editions.

    We have templates already but pix don’t always come in the right shape, stories fall short etc. That’s life.

    Afraid this plan for standardised templates simply won’t work and if Ashley had taken advice from those of us who use InDesign we could have saved him quite a lot of money.

    If he hasn’t yet signed a contract with this design agency, can I suggest he thinks again?

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  • April 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm
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    A few years ago the Sheffield Star tried omitting the Rotherham and Barnsley editions on a Thursday, but it was proved to cause a huge drop in sales so the idea was scrapped til a few months later when it was implimented 6 days a week. A couple of years ago they printed the Saturday edition overnight and delivered it early in the morning, but it affected sales so badly they didnt finish the trial period, but after a while it was implemented 6 days a week.
    I feel that going weekly will see the end of many of our proud and trusted newspapers, and if JP say there wont be any more, who knows which way the evil eye will look next without any sense or reason.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm
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    Highfield keeps banging on about local but these new templates are being designed by an Eastern European design company, I understand…

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  • April 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm
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    They’ll be pretty clued-up on the British provincial newspaper market then…

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  • April 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm
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    JP has tried to suggest editors are enthused by the loss of InDesign. but there isn’t a reporter or editor I know who thinks the loss of access will be anything but disastrous. There are just too many variables for it to be a good idea to introduce such an inflexible system. Whoever had this genius brainwave obviously doesn’t have the first clue about the demands of a news cycle.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm
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    Can’t see how any of this will require fewer subs, unless the plan is for newsdesk to take over part of the role. They work flat out so I can’t see that being a viable option.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm
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    I’d have more belief in Ashley’s electric dreams if our network connection wasn’t so slow that it takes up to 20 minutes or more to upload a breaking news story to the website, or even if we had a website that didn’t look like it was designed in 1997.
    But then again, this man came from Microsoft, the company responsible for some of the most bug-ridden software ever made, so what can you expect?

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