Yes, the action of a merger will have consequences, and yes, some of those consequences will be the £3.2m ‘content generation’ savings which Trinity Mirror itself has estimated. C’est la vie, I’m afraid.
That said, when the inevitable editorial task force is gathered around a long boardroom table somewhere central like Coventry to consider those savings (that’s how and where it starts, and it’s chilling stuff) they must – in my humble opinion – think local.
I know, I know, it’s almost a cliché, and I’m sure it’s something that experienced head honchos will be saying, thinking and acting on already.
But although ‘local’ will be their intention, the danger is that it will be so, so tempting – especially when that savings target is nearly within reach, or is even increased – to resort to one too many pan-group content solutions.
Trinity Mirror’s daily titles already share various columnists, political correspondents, news campaigns and features sections.
Features is fair game in many minds, although too much common beauty, travel, films and music reviews and show business interviews make some pull-outs read like national facsimiles, with little or no serious local content for local readers.
Some critics might even suggest that features pages that take fashion from the thriving nightlife of modern Manchester to the very different Bigg Market of Newcastle are only helping to make the UK more and more homogeneous.
Nevertheless, features content is almost certainly up for grabs in terms of finding those savings.
Solid political reportage, however, along with in-depth opinion and quality campaigning surely needs to be born on each and every news room floor, refined in various remote conferences and given local flavour and factual detail.
Because a local read without politics, opinions and campaigns that are that paper’s own is a bit like standing on a wooden crate in Birmingham’s Bullring and talking in London-centric BBC tones, rather than the relevant dialect. And don’t even get me started on sport!
Again, these reasons for acting more like ‘Local Mirror’ than ‘Trinity World’ will almost certainly be on the minds of the powers-that-be. But there’s no harm in reminding them here.
Meanwhile, I’m fascinated by the price paid for that large stable of Local World titles, which once you take into account Trinity Mirror’s 20pc share makes the deal worth some £220m.
Why? Well, I’m long enough in the tooth to remember when John Bills – now group managing director at Johnston Press – attempted a management buy-out of Trinity Mirror’s titles here in the West Midlands back in 2007.
Yep, £160m – give or take a few million – for what was then three dailies (Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Coventry Telegraph), one Sunday (the Mercury) and a collection of 20 or so paid-for and free weeklies.
Whereas Local World has just been swallowed in a deal that values it at £220m for a print portfolio of 83 publications including 16 dailies, two Metro franchises, 36 paid-for weeklies and 29 free weeklies.
I discussed this chasm of a difference with an old senior colleague who was very, very close to that MBO team, and while he or she must remain anonymous their insight is worth sharing.
“I think it’s [the Local World purchase] a strange deal in some ways, and makes perfect sense in others, short term,” my source told me.
“Cambridge taken out of it, Archant paying more for it? The Archant personalities would be a better fit with Lord Iliffe, and he always hung onto the print plant. The deal is a major securing exercise for their contract print business.
“Trinity Mirror is taking a big punt on this one: immediate bottom line improvement from the inevitable synergies, but a mid-term background of collapsing sales all round and the print advertising market shot to bits.
“I am afraid that I no longer really buy a big revenue future for local digital. This deal is basically field dressing for a big chest wound.
“The Northern and Shell deal [Trinity Mirror were rumoured to be talking to Richard Desmond about the Daily Express and sister titles] would be far more interesting to me, and could have given them real clout for what’s left of national print advertising.”
All of which is interesting banter for those involved in Trinity Mirror and Local World. And how times and fortunes have changed for regional newspapers in the past eight years.