Newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror is shelving plans to introduce individual web traffic targets for journalists following talks with union reps.
National Union of Journalists members at five of TM’s regional centres had voted to take strike action over the plans which were due to be rolled out in the New Year.
But the company has now told staff it is putting the plans on hold following what it called “constructive talks” with the union.
Instead, it is to introduce a system of monthly one-to-one meetings between writers and managers which will review progress on building digital audiences.
The latest move was announced in an email by TM’s editorial director, regionals Neil Benson, pictured above, which has now been circulated to staff.
It read: “I am pleased to say that after constructive discussions with the NUJ, we have agreed what we believe to be a mutually acceptable way forward on audience goals.
“We have agreed that individual audience goals will not be set at this stage. We will be going ahead with monthly one-to-one meetings between writers and managers, to review performance over the previous month and to discuss how personal audiences can be built, using proven best practice and, where appropriate, supported by training.
“We aim to begin one-to-ones from the week commencing January 25. In addition, any members of staff who would like to opt in to individual audience goals, on a trial basis, will be welcome to do so.
“In the initial weeks, the one-to-ones will be run by senior editorial staff, usually (but not exclusively) the editor, executive editor or head of digital. When the process is bedded in, content editors will take over responsibility for one-to-ones.
“Team targets, which have been in place for up to a year in many of our newsrooms, will continue to be used as now.”
Journalists at NUJ chapels in Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Coventry and Llandudno had all voted to take strike action over the planned digital audience goals following a series of ballots earlier this month.
The union had always claimed the proposed targets could undermine public interest and investigative journalism by encouraging reporters to go for quick hits and populist stories, although Trinity Mirror denied this.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “After clear feedback from chapels about audience goals, the NUJ is pleased that in positive discussions, the company has listened to our members’ concerns.
“As a union, we recognise the company’s need to drive its digital engagement and audience and our members want to work with the company to achieve this mutual aim through constructive collaboration in the workplace.
“We have now received significant reassurances from senior managers over the use of one to one meetings in this process and how these will be conducted in a way that retains the confidence of journalists.
“There will be further discussions early in the new year to refine this following further feedback from members through their chapels.”