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Daily journalists reject plan to rename website after neighbouring county

Daily journalists have urged digital chiefs to reverse a plan which will see their newspaper’s website named after a different county from the one where it is based.

Members of the National Union of Journalists at the Burton Mail have written an open letter to Trinity Mirror management to criticise the move, which will see the paper’s site merged with the Derby Telegraph’s to create a new brand called Derbyshire Live.

Burton upon Trent, where the Mail is based, is in East Staffordshire, although the Mail also covers areas of South Derbyshire and North-West Leicestershire districts.

The NUJ chapel at the paper has called for a halt to the plans – but Trinity Mirror says the Derbyshire Live site will still contain Burton Mail branding and that readers will still be able to navigate to content for their area.

Burton site

In its letter, published on the day Trinity Mirror shareholders approved its takeover of the Express, the Mail’s NUJ chapel said the change will “alienate local readers and have a severe impact on the identity.”

It states: “With both the Burton Mail and Uttoxeter Advertiser websites falling under the Derbyshire Live branding, areas such as Tean in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Ashby-de-la-Zouch in north-west Leicestershire and Fradley in Lichfield will all fall under a Derbyshire banner – yet each is 35 miles, 20 miles and 21 miles respectively from the city of Derby.”

“We are aware that similar integrations have already happened in relation to the Lichfield Mercury and Tamworth Herald websites now forming part of the Birmingham Live branding.

“We are also aware from chapel members at these titles that this integration has resulted in a loss of identity for the titles. It is now almost impossible when visiting the Birmingham Live website to navigate to specific Tamworth or Lichfield stories without visiting via a direct link from social media.

“While the move for the Tamworth and Lichfield titles has been devastating for the brand, both are weekly newspapers. From our knowledge, the Burton Mail is the only paid-for daily newspaper to lose its branding.

“In the light of this, the chapel has urged Trinity Mirror to reconsider its proposals.”

But a Trinity Mirror spokesman said:”The NUJ are jumping to false assumptions. There will still be Burton Mail branding on the Derbyshire Live site, and it will be very easy for readers to find content for their area. All social media accounts will remain active, and under the Burton Mail brand.

“Our experience with the switch to the ‘Live’ brand in Birmingham and elsewhere,is that it is helping us to increase reader engagement, and we are now reaching more local people per day than at any time since the 1970s.

“We also know, as evidenced by recent activity in the industry, that brands are more likely to be successful when they are part of digital platforms with large audiences. The move to put the Burton content into the new Derbyshire Live brand will ensure we give local journalism about Burton the best possible chance of being found by a larger audience, thus helping to protect it for the future.

“We are surprised to see the NUJ issuing press releases and passing judgement before trying to find out the background to what’s happening. We are committed to finding a sustainable future for local journalism online, and we look forward to the NUJ prioritising this over their grandstanding in the pursuit of headlines in the trade press.”

The Derbyshire Live proposal is part of a major revamp on TM’s digital presence which will see several other regional dailies adopt ther ‘Live’ branding online.

They include the Leicester Mercury, Nottingham Post, Bristol Post, Coventry Telegraph and Stoke daily The Sentinel, as well as the Mail and the Derby Telegraph.

A total of 49 redundancies are expected across the Midlands, the South-West of England and in Liverpool as a result of the plans, which follow the rebranding of the Birmingham Mail website as Birmingham Live in an attempt to create a “standalone digital business.”

According to the NUJ, around 16 of these job losses are expected to take place in the East Midlands.

10 comments

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  • February 27, 2018 at 4:14 pm
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    I can see their point but newspaper bosses gave up the idea of patches and allegiance to them when print copies started to be subbed and printed miles away from their root source.

    To be honest I’ve given up trying to navigate local newspaper websites – being unable to cut through the mish-mash of ads, national news and links to useless lifestyle content as well as a myriad of other pop-ups! The Boston Standard website is a particular case in point.

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  • February 27, 2018 at 10:45 pm
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    The NUJ speaks out… with presumably the same success it has had on defending journalists’ jobs, salaries and working conditions over the last 20 years. I see its logo is still “winning for you at work.” The irony.

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  • February 28, 2018 at 8:08 am
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    Former journo is correct
    The problems around navigating local paper websites are, in my view,one of the key factors in why readers give these parochial sites a wide berth in preference to the larger national news sites and are a big part in why digital advertising has failed to take off.
    The cheap option the publishers thought would be lucrative in allowing these god awful links,videos and irrelevant listicles being promoted on their sites and by receiving a small sum per click is the very thing that turned site visitors away and has put genuine local businesses off from advertising, it’s not a user friendly experience particular when the actual site content is so weak.
    A large longer term cost to pay for what they thought would be quick and easy money.
    I just pity the poor souls who have to try and sell it, no wonder staff turnover is so high

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  • February 28, 2018 at 10:13 am
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    Not one of the major companies with daily and weekly papers has a “user-friendly” website. JPs efforts are especially dire, but NQ and TM have nothing to crow about. It is so hard to find and read a story. Best wait for the paper, eh?

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  • February 28, 2018 at 10:18 am
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    You would say that about the NUJ as a former editor, wouldn’t you ex-ed.
    In fact, I’m quite sure you’d have been delighted if there wasn’t a union fighting for journalists’ rights, both collectively and individually, over the many years of its existence.
    I’m quite sure you’re firmly in the ‘grandstanding’ camp of the TM spokesman quoted in the body of the story.

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  • February 28, 2018 at 10:18 am
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    The NUJ is correct about the Lichfield Mercury. The 203-year-old newspaper is apparently no longer a brand of any interest to TM and despite being in Staffordshire the only trace of it online is one well-hidden page with just a couple of genuine Lichfield stories on it buried away within Birmingham Live.
    Would TM executives in London expect to turn to an Essex website for London news? Unlikely. So why do they think people in Staffordshire will regard websites branded as Birmingham or Derbyshire to be reliable or first-choice purveyors of Staffordshire news?

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  • February 28, 2018 at 10:36 am
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    @employeeX I think you could have the best, fastest loading newspaper website in the world but I don’t think that local advertisers would flock to them, there are just so many more cost-effective options for them now to advertise themselves (social media for one). Newspapers just aren’t the draw they once were.

    The dilemma for the groups is they need revenue and the people they are most likely to get it from is advertisers in scale. Not to defend the horrible ads, but I can see why the big groups are going for economies of scale.

    As for the Burton Mail – they’ve done well to stay a daily newspaper never mind retaining their own website!

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  • February 28, 2018 at 11:40 am
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    As a retired hack I am glad I don’t have to work in this digital age. It was enough to concentrate on doing the story for a newspaper but having to then redo it for the digital aspect would drive me nuts – and at a time when staff numbers are falling.

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  • February 28, 2018 at 9:59 pm
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    Ex-regional journo….. The fact is over the last 15 years, for a variety of reasons (most of them self-inflicted by chief executives who history will frown upon), journalism has been gutted. Jobs have gone, standards have declined, papers shut, revenues down.. you name it.
    Throughout this process, whatever its intentions, the NUJ has dismally failed as a national organisation to protect the industry and its members’ wider interests.
    There are many reasons for its failure, some of them excusable and outside its remit, but the fact remains the same. It has failed.
    That is a pity.
    It still has a vital role to play, and should be supported.
    But please, let us not pretend it has any influence in the future direction of the industry (ie downwards).
    In my long tenure as an Editor, the NUJ reaction to any changes I implemented barely entered my consideration. It was, and sadly remains, largely toothless.
    It’s a fact.
    However, by all means, if it makes you feel better, feel free to metaphorically shoot the messenger.

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  • March 1, 2018 at 9:15 am
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    Well, at least their social media accounts will still have Burton Mail branding. Oh, hang on, haven’t Facebook just changed their algorithm to specifically exclude that content from timelines?

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