The boss of the newly-formed Local World regional press consortium today set out his vision to revive the industry, promising an end to “cost reduction for its own sake” and hinting at a return to town centre offices for some titles.
Speaking at a press conference this morning alongside new chief executive Steve Auckland, who previously held the same role at Northcliffe Media, he said the focus of the new company would be on local content, local sales and local management.
He told journalists he had “not lost faith in print” but that the new company was leaving behind the “industrial baggage” associated with the industry in terms of printing presses and oversized buildings.
Said David: “I have had a vision for some time that the newspaper industry in the regions of Britain needed to be resuscitated in a way that would equip them for the future.
“We will be a purely content and sales company. We are leaving behind the industrial baggage of print. We have no printing machines to maintain, no elaborate physical infrastructure. We are starting with a clean sheet.
“We’re going to stop the trend of cost reduction for the sake of cost reduction in the regional newspaper business. We’re going to grow the business.
“It will be more efficient, but there will be more accomplished people handling more content and handling more sales.”
Added Steve: “We aim to turn this into an inspirational media company. We aim to reshape this industry, focusing on local content, local sales and local management.
“We’ll keep it fun, and we’re not going to be traditional. David and I don’t do stuffy.”
On the future of the existing newspaper buildings, some of which are currently leased from DMGT, David said: “There is not going to be any wasted space.”
Hinting at possible office moves he added: “We are prepared to have a higher profile presence in some communities. We want to have more visibility in the centre of towns.”
Asked about the prospect of newspaper closures or further moves from daily to weekly publication, Steve said: “We don’t envisage that at this stage.”
Steve also denied there would be a “non aggression pact” with Trinity Mirror in areas where their patches overlap, such as Loughborough, where Northcliffe has recently launched a new free title in opposition to established TM weekly the Loughborough Echo, and parts of South Wales.
He added: “Where we will work together with Trinity Mirror is in back office areas.”
Steve was also asked whether DMGT’s decision to retain ownership of the vertical classified platforms such as Jobsite would create difficulties for the new venture.
He responded: “No, because the deals we have got in place with motors and Jobsite will still remain, that’s exactly as before.”
Four fifths of the shares in Local World will be split between three newspaper publishers – Northcliffe’s former owner DMGT with 38.7pc, Iliffe parent company Yattendon plc with 21.3pc, and Trinity Mirror with 20pc.
David declined to say how the other 20pc will be divided up between smaller investors, who include hedge fund manager Crispin Odey and former Conservative Party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, and also refused to be drawn on whether there was a timescale for Trinity Mirror to put its own regional newspaper assets into the business.