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Former editors debate merits of Local World takeover

FowlerTwo distinguished former regional editors have debated in print whether the Trinity Mirror takeover of Local World is a good or bad thing.

Trinity Mirror became the UK’s biggest regional publisher earlier this month with the completion of the £220m deal.

But former editors Neil Fowler, left, and Alan Geere, who each worked for both Trinity and LW or their predecessor companies at some stage in their careers, disagree over whether the takeover will be good for the industry.

Writing in In Publishing magazine, Neil said the move would give the newly-enlarged company more freedom to experiment – but Alan fears it will become an “oversized beast that is too big manage.”

Wrote Neil:  “Four years ago, in one of the conclusions of my research study into the UK’s regional newspaper sector, I recommended that consolidation should take place quickly.

“The creation of Local World three years ago was the first small move in that direction; the establishment of the enlarged Trinity Mirror is the next logical step, showing that the industry is beginning to accept publicly, at least, the realities of life.

“But the main opportunity is an opening much more challenging – the possibility of being radical.

“With so many different brands and titles, Trinity Mirror can try different methods of crafting its wares, to see if other ways may work better – without damaging the whole business.”

alan_geereAlan, pictured right, countered: “There is no quibble with Trinity Mirror. They have some good people who know what they are doing. The issue is more with the concentration of power and influence.

“The bigger the group, the less room for flair, adventure and independence of thought or deed. I see some consolidation coming resulting in a new oversized beast that is too big to manage properly.

“Many readers neither know nor care who the owner is – and nor do a lot of the staff – but they do mind that their local paper and its digital counterparts cease to be an accurate reflection of their lives.

“The more local media fails to represent its community, the fewer people will engage – and all the economies of scale in the world count for nought if you have no audience.”

Alan, a former editorial director of Thomson Regional Newspapers which later evolved into Trinity Mirror, edited the Essex Chronicle and Brentwood Gazette before they became part of Local World in 2013.

Neil previously edited the Lincolnshire Echo and Derby Telegraph – now part of LW – as well as The Journal and the Western Mail – now both part of Trinity Mirror.


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  • November 30, 2015 at 7:40 am

    All the staff are worried about in this situation, I imagine, is whether their jobs are safe or not. Ownership of a business is of little importance if you’re on the dole and worrying about where your next mortgage payment or square meal is coming from. TM has already fine-tuned the savings it will be making in the coming months (£3.2m on “content generation”, for example) and I’m very surprised the two grandees interviewed here didn’t even mention that.

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  • November 30, 2015 at 8:11 am

    The problem with big groups is the rise of identikit newspapers and a belief that what works for one works for another, when it very rarely does. Different markets require different strategies, and while Neil predicts variety and experimentation, there’s not ugh evidence to suggest that this will happen (and even if it did, it would then lead to a magic key situation where every other paper in the group would follow regardless of the fit for their title).

    Although if they sort out Local World’s horrendous digital ad display then we might be willing to forgive them a lot!

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  • November 30, 2015 at 9:20 am

    The essence of newspapers, like people, should be their individuality.
    You can’t get that in a monopoly where accountants have the whip hand.
    “Let a hundred flowers bloom;
    Let a hundred schools of thought contend.”
    Who said that?
    Chairman Mao?
    Oh dear…I think I’ve boo bood again!

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  • November 30, 2015 at 10:18 am

    It’s easy to see what TM want. They’re trying to monopolise the big cities. LW holds areas like Bristol, Bath and Nottingham, its smaller titles will wither on the vine – guaranteed.

    I was in a meeting with TM top brass about five years ago where they said the intention was to grow the digital audience by any means ‘like Facebook had’ and only THEN figure out how to make money out of readers.

    It became clear that the company saw online and mobile users as being mainly metropolitan in their nature (to be fair, they’re probably right) so have turned the likes of the Liverpool Echo and MEN into regional hubs, while the weeklies have been cast to the four winds.

    This is exactly what I expect to happen with LW’s smaller titles, officers will close and they’ll be lucky to have one reporter each and a Twitter account.

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  • November 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

    It is now abundantly clear that the Local World project was not a “transformation of the regional media business” as was trumpeted in certain quarters, but a money grab, pure and simple. On that basis, if chief exec Simon Fox is as good as his word on investing in and developing the brands for the medium and long term in their marketplaces then TM are a better owner than LW. Not perfect, not ideal (it would be better if regional media brands were returned to true local ownership) but in the current climate and media landscape better than some of the other alternatives. And there’ll be less barking mad memos and goggle-eyed zealots at HQ into the bargain.

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