Johnston Press has delivered a fresh signal that it may sell off some of its 200-plus local and regional titles in the wake of its £24m purchase of cut-price national newspaper the i.
Last month the regional publisher announced it had identified a series of assets for potential sales following a “portfolio review.”
JP launched a process to explore the sale of these assets to “interested parties,” and the company has now revealed that it is “encouraged” by the response.
The revelation was contained within the detailed announcement of Friday’s £24m purchase of cut-price national newspaper the i from Evgeny Lebedev’s ESI Media and suggests further deals are in the offing.
It said: “The company announced on 19 January 2016 that, as part of the group’s portfolio review, a number of brands have been identified that are not part of its long-term future, as they fall outside its selected markets, or do not match the audience focus, or do not offer the levels of digital growth sought by the group.
“A process was initiated to explore the sale of these assets to identified parties, and the directors are encouraged by the responses received.”
Friday’s detailed statement also set out details of JP how it plans to run its new acquisition.
It revealed that high-quality content from its existing regional newspapers could be re-used in the i, alongside content from Mr Lebedev’s existing stable provided under the terms of a three-year “super syndication” deal.
The statement also revealed that i editor Oliver Duff would be staying on in the role under the new ownership.
And although Oliver will be nominally answerable to JP’s editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford, it made clear the i’s editorial independence would be maintained under the terms of the deal.
The i currently has a dedicated staff of 25, 17 of which are editorial, all of whom will transfer to JP.
Oliver has since tweeted that this will be increased to 51 editorial staff, with many of the additional 34 roles expected to go to journalists being made redundant as a result of The Independent’s closure.
The JP statement read: “The 25 i staff, working mostly in editorial, will transfer by law to Johnston Press, subject to consultation under TUPE, and will initially remain in a dedicated central London office.
“It is intended that the i team would be working on Johnston Press’ core enterprise systems remotely as is consistent with the current arrangements within the group. The editor of i, Oliver Duff, will also remain with the title.
“The head office functions, such as information technology, human resources, finance, logistics and marketing, will be provided by Johnston Press to maximise the potential cost synergies.
“i will also retain editorial control over the content of its title independent of Johnston Press.
“Johnston Press has also entered into a three-year rolling content supply agreement with the vendor, forming the basis of much of the content for the title.
“In addition, i will be able to access content created by the Johnston Press titles.
“Primary content sources for i would include the independent.co.uk staff; feeds from London Evening Standard; newly created i-only reporting staff and other content from third parties.
“The company will seek to ensure that the group only takes content that it judges to be of high quality and is consistent with the positioning of i.”
Oliver has welcomed the deal saying JP is “ideally placed” to help continue the i’s development.
“Since launching five years ago, i has been an insurgent force in the national quality newspaper market, defying sceptics and overtaking established rivals through innovation and bold, independent journalism,” he said.
“Ownership by Johnston Press will propel i into the next exciting chapter in its short history. JP’s heritage, national network of journalists, retail clout and commitment to digital development mean the group is ideally placed to continue i’s circulation and revenue growth.
“i is already a punchy, trusted digest that cuts through the noise of daily life. Our readers around the UK subscribe to its ethos of brevity, quality and impartiality. Yet many more people are short on time and hungry for knowledge. With JP’s help, we can reach this untapped audience – and build on a British media success story.”