AddThis SmartLayers

Horizontal Jobs Scroller

Latest Jobs Call 01332 895994 to advertise here

JP plays down sell-off plans as it identifies 59 ‘sub-core’ titles

Johnston Press logoJohnston Press has identified a list of 59 daily and weekly newspaper titles which it considers to be “sub-core.”

But the regional publisher has denied that the list – which includes the Wigan Evening Post and Scotland on Sunday – amounts to a catalogue of titles it plans to sell.

In a trading update yesterday, JP revealed it was exploring possible asset sales to help fund investment and pay down net debt.

According to the update, titles which could be sold off include those that are outside of selected markets, do not match its “audience focus” or do not offer the desired levels of digital growth.

It has now emerged that the group has categorised its 200-plus newspaper titles into four groups – uber, primary, core and sub-core.

The lists came to light in an email to staff yesterday which JP has since forwarded to HTFP.

Ths ‘uber’ group of flagship newspaper brands includes a group of eight daily titles.

They are: the Yorkshire Post, The Scotsman, Yorkshire Evening Post, Edinburgh Evening News, Portsmouth News, Lancashire Evening Post, The Star (Sheffield) and the News Letter in Belfast.

Of the group’s five other daily titles, four are listed in the ‘core’ group, namely the Blackpool Gazette, Shields Gazette, Hartlepool Mail and Sunderland Echo.

The email says that this group of titles, which also includes 70 weeklies, make “a significant contribution and are important brands which sit right at the heart of Johnston Press.”

By contrast the sub-core group are said to deliver “very low levels of contribution,” with some not breaking-even.

The email says: “We intend to review these first and will look to establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return from this group.  It is critical that our resources are used to the maximum effect and we will be working speedily to establish an effective publishing model for these brands.”

Also listed are 23 ‘primary’ titles, all weeklies, which the email says “will benefit from having ammore consistently executed audience and commercial strategy.”

The email adds:  “Each grouping makes a different, but equally important, contribution to Johnston Press, and we believe that different strategies are needed for each group in order to set that group of brands up to be successful and improve their contribution.

“To be crystal clear: if we do decide to undertake a small number of asset sales, the four groupings of Uber, Primary, Core and Sub-Core have no bearing on those decisions.

“We would not, for example, ever look to sell a whole category.”

Below is the email, sent yesterday from the company’s international communications team, in full.   The lists of titles in the four categories can be seen here.


All,

We issued a trading update today confirming that we’re on track to hit trading expectations for 2015. The note highlights that we have continued to carefully manage costs, paid off more of our debt and invested in our key markets.

It was another challenging trading period, and underlying total revenues fell 7% year on year.  Circulation revenues were down 7% year on year, while contract printing revenues were consistent, boosted by some impressive contract wins including the Daily and Sunday Express and Star.  Underlying digital revenues grew 12%, and growth stories included our internet advertising platform 1XL, which saw a 99% revenue increase, larger SME customer spend, up 17% year on year, and Media Sales Centre revenues – also up on 2014.

You have probably seen headlines referencing a possible sale of assets which was mentioned in our Trading Update. The media reaction has greatly exaggerated our intentions around this, so we wanted to take a moment to outline what was discussed at a Senior Leadership Team event last week around how we are segmenting and managing our portfolio this year and what that means in practice.  This includes how we could, theoretically, arrive at a small number of sale decisions in order to re-invest the proceeds in our primary markets, or to further pay down our debt.

The update was viewed positively by the City this morning and on the back of the trading update Liberum, our joint corporate advisers, issued a ‘Buy’ note.  Please do take the time to read this, it is an excellent and succinct summary of our performance and strategy. It includes a map of contribution by brand, which has been just one of the factors that has helped form our strategy this year.

The strategy is based on the three key factors that we believe will set Johnston Press up for growth overall. Those factors are:

1. Advertisers & Products: focusing our commercial offer around fewer, better, commercial products which are most attractive to our customers, and serving our higher-yielding customers ever better to ensure we get our LDFE business back to growth, mirroring our national advertising success.

2. Geographies: focusing our investments on our primary brands which are in markets where the economics show there is most potential for growth, or where their financial contribution is strong.

3. Audiences: focusing our efforts to attract more commercially valuable, multi-platform audience groups, which we’ve described as “Flourishing Families” and “Mid-lifers”. These are the groups with the disposable income, who value what we do, value our brands and are attractive for our advertisers to reach.

We have assessed all our brands against these factors, and created four strategic groupings which we have called Uber, Primary, Core and Sub-Core. These replace both the old PU-groupings and the priority brand framework which were the main operating principles to date.

Each grouping makes a different, but equally important, contribution to Johnston Press, and we believe that different strategies are needed for each group in order to set that group of brands up to be successful and improve their contribution. To be crystal clear: if we do decide to undertake a small number of asset sales, the four groupings of Uber, Primary, Core and Sub-Core have no bearing on those decisions. We would not, for example, ever look to sell a whole category.

The Uber group comprises eight brands including the Yorkshire Post, The Scotsman, Yorkshire Evening Post, Edinburgh Evening News, Portsmouth News, Lancashire Evening Post, The Star (Sheffield) and the News Letter.

The Primary group includes 23 weekly titles. The brands in this group will benefit from having a more consistently executed audience and commercial strategy.

The Core group includes 70 titles. These brands make a significant contribution and are important brands which sit right at the heart of Johnston Press. We will manage this group to achieve a high degree of best practice driven by a balanced and consistent approach. Specifically we will look to organise our newsrooms to deliver the appropriate mix of content across these ‘core’ titles.

We have a number of smaller brands which need simple solutions to ensure they serve their communities effectively and profitably. Internally, we are calling this group ‘Sub-Core’. This group makes up a third of our news brands and delivers very low levels of contribution, some brands in this group do not break even. We intend to review these first and will look to establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return from this group.  It is critical that our resources are used to the maximum effect and we will be working speedily to establish an effective publishing model for these brands.

Finally, we have regularly signalled our intention to continue to take further costs out of the business and our new initiatives should allow us to continue to be more efficient in the way we operate. Identifying cost saving opportunities along with ways to generate more revenue is, and will remain, a normal and ongoing process, just as it is for every successful business.

Together we must remain absolutely focused on delivering our 2016 priorities, driven by a simpler organisation design, cost focus and a clear portfolio strategy.

46 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • January 20, 2016 at 10:30 am
    Permalink

    Yes, it’s all crystal clear! The shares took another dive today. There don’t seem to be many more straws on the surface of the drowning pool for Ash to grasp!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • January 20, 2016 at 10:32 am
    Permalink

    Will JP be putting this on their papers. Just imagine reader “excitement” at “This Is Your Uber edition of the Scotsman”.
    I guess they will drop the price of the “sub-core” papers as they are inferior products.
    The Scotsman had better be uber. JP’s ills began after they paid way over the odds for it and some poor Irish titles.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • January 20, 2016 at 10:47 am
    Permalink

    Uber lieutenant. JP bought some excellent Irish titles and destroyed them, at the same time raising the cover prices which now stand at £1.50.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • January 20, 2016 at 10:50 am
    Permalink

    No-one’s said ‘inferior products’, uber lieutenant. They may be very good, its just that they don’t make a profit.
    In the same way, I assume the top group are JP’s ‘uber’ profit-makers, rather than being ranked as an ‘uber’ read for the customer….

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(3)
  • January 20, 2016 at 10:58 am
    Permalink

    I hope telling staff they are working for a ‘sub-core’ title and that their town is effectively a basket case will not affect their morale.

    If this wasn’t all so desperately sad it could be straight out of an episode of W1A.
    ‘I’m just slipping into Frankie Howerd to see if my sub-core is showing the desired level of growth’.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • January 20, 2016 at 11:16 am
    Permalink

    Crisis? What crisis? Nothing to see here just trying to play down the universal condemnation of yesterday’s announcement so it doesn’t come across as bad as it really is.
    And hopefully you can all understand and get on the bus with our,quote “simpler organisation design… And clear portfolio strategy”
    If not you’re not buying into the corporste focus and have no future here

    So, if you’re from a demographic that has high disposable income, live in a ‘uber posh’ neighbourhood and don’t know how poor quality our papers are we want your ca$h, pleeeeeeease, however if you’re not any of the above then move along there’s nothing for you here

    JP staffers if you’re working on titles in the sub core category I’d suggest you get your cv out and about as it looks like your days are numbered

    It would be laughable of it wasn’t so serious for the poor saps working there

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)
  • January 20, 2016 at 11:19 am
    Permalink

    I’m confused, what are they looking to sell? No investor or other media group would purchase a loss making group of papers, they will have already been stripped to the bone. They’d have to include some profit making ones to make a sale. Unless they are going to sell the loss making ones for a nominal £1, but they say they want to pay off debts, so will be looking for millions.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm
    Permalink

    Over the Hill. To JP a paper not making profit is inferior. That’s their core thinking.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:28 pm
    Permalink

    You really have to admire the clear, concise manner in which a communications company . . . . . communicates.
    Uber groups? Deleverage? How can any company that struggles with English be expected to deliver top-quality, easy to read products that people can relate to?
    It’s not rocket science: “We are up the creek with a broken paddle so some more of you will have to go. But not the big, urban papers that make money, obviously, because we still owe £186m and somehow that has to be paid-off.”

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve asked this question before, but how long before JP shares are officially declared as “junk”?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm
    Permalink

    I used to work for one of those sub-core titles, either lifting content from the associated daily or with the help of the newsroom junior who had to provide stories for it when he had time.

    I wanted to do the best possible job so I lifted proper news stories, made sure there was always a controversial schools/planning aspect to page leads. Wasn’t long before I was told this title mustn’t compete with the daily paper and the content was just to fill up the space between the ads.

    I was only given a few hours a week to do the job so if JP can’t make any money out of a free newspaper with no full time staff at all, then its business acumen is zero.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(16)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm
    Permalink

    Would it not be more beneficial in the long run for JP to set up a committee, then sub-committee, to look at ways of breaking the uber-doobah, primary, core blimey, and sub-core groupings into sub-sections paper, scissors, stone and then into groups eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Do JP decision-makers work in an office that’s situated near an Evostik factory?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(20)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:48 pm
    Permalink

    Interesting to see that the Eastbourne Gazette, recently re-launched as a broadsheet is seen as sub-core. (Incidentally is it now entirely free? When I’ve visited Eastbourne, only seen free copies for pick-up in one non-news outlet, and none in newsagents).

    Also interesting the way neighbouring titles have fallen into different categories eg Lancaster Guardian and (Morecambe) Visitor, and the Hastings Observer and Eastbourne Herald

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)
  • January 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm
    Permalink

    How on earth can the Yorkshire Evening Post be regarded as uber? First, it’s not an evening title and second, it’s circulation numbers are awful. Recently gone up to 72p a copy too.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(11)
  • January 20, 2016 at 1:05 pm
    Permalink

    ‘Commercially valuable, multi-platform audience groups’. I think we used to call them readers…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(19)
  • January 20, 2016 at 1:10 pm
    Permalink

    Blackpool Gazette – which won JPs Title of the Year, Daily of the Year and Story of the Year in 2013 – not considered to be of ‘Uber’ quality. How sad.
    Just shows this is all about advertising and not editorial content/newspaper sales. Big national advertisers only target what they deem to be the bigger papers in economically and socially better areas, thus why likes of Blackpool and Sunderland are seemingly being sidelined. The race to the bottom is speeding up, folks…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • January 20, 2016 at 1:23 pm
    Permalink

    Calling some Of those ‘Uber’ titles is ….well fanciful at best. But if you flag it up as ‘Uber’ then maybe it’ll be easier to sell. It’s all a big selling strategy. It’s a bit obvious though.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • January 20, 2016 at 1:46 pm
    Permalink

    Well if you can’t make money out of a newspaper in West Sussex you really have an appalling business model. Anyone up for talks?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • January 20, 2016 at 1:56 pm
    Permalink

    Yesterday they announced a 12% drop in print ad revenue sales, today they announce a 12% increase in web ad sales

    Just sayin

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm
    Permalink

    Is JP run by self-absorbed teenage girls now then?

    “Uber” is such a naff juvenile expression.

    Should have gone with “Totes Amazeballs.”

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(45)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm
    Permalink

    So this is what passes for a strategy in JP circles… God help them all. Remind me: How do you make money out of the internet, again?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm
    Permalink

    And how much will JP get for those titles it has identified as essentially non-going concerns?

    Also surprised to see the Yorkshire Post as a uber title! can’t remember the last time I saw a proper paid-for advert in its inside pages

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm
    Permalink

    Rambler: ‘Commercially valuable, multi-platform audience groups’ aren’t really readers. They are the people the management wants to attract to buy the stuff advertised. Sadly, they seem to have overlooked or disregarded entirely the fact that that these “audience groups” don’t buy the paper (not the brand!!!) for the ads. They buy it or click on its site to read the stuff between the ads – has it never occurred to them to wonder why ad-blocking software is so popular?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(11)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm
    Permalink

    This is all smoke and mirrors. A ham-fisted strategy to help offload titles. It’s a pix and mix sales ploy. ‘You can have one from Uber, 3 from core and six from sub-core but none from Primary unless you’re willing to pay big. Why not take that geographical group? Is this a subtle break up of the group for max price given the bad state of print titles?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • January 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm
    Permalink

    There are absent titles too – I can’t find the Berwick Advertiser on this list, unless it’s counted in with the Berwickshire News or Northumberland Gazette.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • January 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm
    Permalink

    This just gets funnier by the day. I completely understand and agree with the categorisation of assets and titles. Why not put the majority of effort/resource where you can get the greatest return (seems sensible enough). The major problem here is that all the newspaper companies are pretty much run the same. So if JP see titles as sub-core (ie, low profit and low potential) then why on earth would TM, NQ view them differently? So, IF sold it will be for a pittance which won’t make much of an impact on JP’s debt, effectively consigning those titles to the scrap heap. Oh for a realistic profit margin, instead of living 10+ years ago when profits were 30% as a minimum.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • January 20, 2016 at 3:54 pm
    Permalink

    JP’s release of their title list and strategy is probably the stupidist strategy statement I have seen since JP’s last outburst. Having worked with scores of media companies on strategy, JP are without doubt the dumbest. Panmure Gordon rate JP a “buy” presumably anticipating that the company may be acquired, But the fact that JP hasn’t been acquired, despite the fact its value to turnover ratio is only around a fifth of Trinity Mirror’s says a lot about the state of the business that JP have created
    BTW: JP “named Liberum as Joint Corporate Broker” http://www.liberum.com/news?q=johnston c 22 December, which may explain their enthusiastic view about KP’s value:

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • January 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm
    Permalink

    Matthew Kilburn – when I was up in Berwick, in production terms the Advertiser was counted as a slip edition of the Berwickshire News. At the time, the Northumberland Gazette was part of North East Press and the Berwick titles were in the Scottish division. Both the BA and BN were cracking titles to work for at the time and Berwick is a great little town but then…..

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • January 20, 2016 at 4:20 pm
    Permalink

    I think the Dead Digital Horse has it spot-on. I have recently worked for two of the so-called primary titles and I can tell you now that they are anything but thriving. Worrying times.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • January 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm
    Permalink

    As a briefing to staff, this report was crass and insulting. Another internal PR disaster!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • January 20, 2016 at 5:32 pm
    Permalink

    The bunch of clowns running JP never cease to amaze me.

    Imagine a stock market investor reading that hogwash and having any confidence in the company?

    Imagine what this will do to the staff of the sub-prime sector publications?

    Imagine what readers will think when they see JP don’t give a flying fig about the paper they are buying?

    I despair that the Hartlepool Mail is in the second top group. It’s absolute rubbish and those who produce it should be embarrassed. It’s seen as a joke in the town. So if this paper is one of the better on the JP portfolio I shudder to think what the rest must be like.

    Just shows what can be achieved when an incompetent management team chase an unobtainable Internet dream.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(12)
  • January 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm
    Permalink

    Actually, Harry, there are some really good local newspapers in the so-called sub-core group where the staff take a pride in what they do and care about the product. This should not be seen as a reflection on them – they are already sickened by what has happened and don’t need any more brickbats thrown their way.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • January 20, 2016 at 6:09 pm
    Permalink

    What comes across, reading through the many comments, is that in the eyes of many, JP is simply a laughing stock. Their newspapers and websites are filled with examples of lazy journalism, stories that are no more than re-hashed press releases from businesses and organisations keen to self promote. They look for material that’s originated on social media, because there isn’t the time to get out onto the streets. The websites in particular, are absolutely dire, full of ‘clickbait’ and ‘listicles’ instead of real local news. And don’t get me started on pictures. Local newspapers are finished and if Ashley Highfield were to go out onto the streets to ask people what they thought of their once proud paper… he’d surely be left in no doubt. In fact, he doesn’t have to go anywhere, he should just scan the comments left by his dear readers on his uber newspaper websites.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(14)
  • January 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm
    Permalink

    The Yorkshire Post really was a Great newspaper before JP got it’s hands on it. JP have turned it into a sub-core chip wrapper. Sell off as many titles as are needed to pay off the mountain of debt.They will be the lucky ones! and to use ‘Ashley Speak’, reboot the whole group ie START AGAIN! its the only way forward.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • January 20, 2016 at 7:59 pm
    Permalink

    I’ll say it again – the digital revenue figures are fiddled across the land. Print revenues spliced into two boxes. It’s probably against some law or certainly city rules to pull wool over the eyes of shareholders.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • January 21, 2016 at 12:02 am
    Permalink

    Ex-Berwick – thanks. The Advertiser now shares an.editor with the Gazette, but its publisher remains formally the Tweeddale Press Group and its classifieds I think remain shared with the Berwickshire. The Gazette and the Morpeth Herald recently had their publisher changed from Northeast Press Ltd (who remain formally the publishers of the East Durham papers) to Johnston Press North East. This needn’t mean anything of course…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • January 21, 2016 at 7:50 am
    Permalink

    I’ve just used the JP algorithm to assess the value of my current newspaper and, according to their scale, we rated as Fantabbydozzy.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • January 21, 2016 at 8:27 am
    Permalink

    @Effed Doff. I have no doubt that the vast majority of JP staff care about their papers and have pride in their work. That wasn’t my point.

    I’ve seen lots of JP papers over the past year or so in my travels round the country. Some of them are so bad, I cringe. But it’s no wonder they are bad. Lots of experienced people have gone and many JP journalists are just ‘kids’ who need guidance and help to progress. This just isn’t there.

    The ‘blame’ for the state of JP newspapers is entirely at the door of Ashley and his management team.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(13)
  • January 21, 2016 at 11:09 am
    Permalink

    I wonder where the JP weekly where I just read a tribute to someone that did not mention his surname until the second last paragraph fits in to these categories. Sloppy? Unprofessional?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • January 21, 2016 at 11:20 am
    Permalink

    Having read that jargon-riddled missive to staff, I’m convinced the Johnston uber suits are living in La La Land.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • January 21, 2016 at 11:53 am
    Permalink

    Two points from the comments above.

    Obviously a paper not making profit will be under threat unless it can be turned round but this requires vast improvement and investment in quality content which will in time encourage more readers to take the paper which in turn will lead to a better sales proposition for potential advertisers which in time will enable good sales people to grow revenues.
    The company also needs to look at the commercial operation and develop those staff capable of ‘selling’ advertising to businesses ( not offering it late and cheap) and by getting shot of the dead wood in the ad department who are going through the motions but not achieving anything,then bring in the best commercial sales people to move the business forward.
    It’s that simple but all of the above takes time and needed to have happened long ago, what you’re left with as a result of inaction and complacency is dying papers with many ( not all) staff seeing out their days and waiting to be axed with a few £££to do so which is why morale is low and the business is stagnating.

    And picking up @Mr P and @im not Eds points with regards to digital revenues v print , of course sales people move money from print to web, quite often their bonus and target depends on it and if you can’t sell it but you’re getting pressure to do so it’s a means to an end.in their eyes the customer pays the same,I believe in some groups it’s a mandatory package with a ” buy this get that” package with the total split “for booking purposes only ”
    The real result of this action, apart from paying a bonus, is that print revenues take a dive and those people who find themselves with a web ad don’t get response and thus don’t give digital another go so a lose lose long term for a quick win short term.
    I just wonder if the top brass realise how much of an issue this or whether they really believe their web revenues are improving?
    I can’t help but think some turn a blind eye happy in the fact that they can report digital increases and claim ignorance of the fact if challenged
    Either way, in my experience there doesn’t seem much happening to challenge or prevent it

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • January 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm
    Permalink

    I’d say its only a matter of time ….. there will be more jumping ship, taking redundancy, retiring early and my advice would be do it as soon as possible theres not enough life jackets available for everyone … sad times, from someone who was there in the good times

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • January 21, 2016 at 6:38 pm
    Permalink

    To sum up, the management do not understand that good quality up to the minute news ,sells. Poorley written Yesterday’s news does not. Investment is desperately needed.
    If you produce the right product people will buy it and advertisers will advertise in it. Come on JP you CAN make the papers Great again! And see the share price rise!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • January 21, 2016 at 7:08 pm
    Permalink

    I led (as editor) the Doncaster Free Press to sales of over 40,000 in the early 2000s – and it doesn’t even get a mention on the hit list . . . .
    I was asked, when JP took over Reed Northern Newspapers, whether I was` commercially aware’ – by God that sticks in the crawl!”

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • January 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm
    Permalink

    The single reason Johnston Press has collapsed is simply because they stopped selling advertising for their papers. Our company was a major advertiser on the south coast but we have not seen a rep for over 2 years. Tried to call several times a couple of years ago but were told on each occasion that all sales staff were in a meeting. When someone finally called all they wanted to sell was internet so we went on radio and have been there ever since.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)

Advanced search

View Jobs by Category

Job Alerts Please log in or register to sign up for job alerts