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Dyson at Large: Five big questions as Trinity Mirror rebrands regional websites

Trinity Mirror’s plans to shed 49 jobs as it rebrands its regional websites has already provoked confusion, disbelief, sadness and anger from those who care about the titles involved.

But rather than simply joining in the castigation of these changes, today’s blog will ask five reasonable questions that it challenges the publishing giant to answer.

1/ Why is the word ‘Live’ placed after a geography better than an established title?

Yes, we all know that traditional titles, such as the Leicester Mercury, have declining print sales, and if that’s all that was at stake it would perhaps be understandable to start again with Leicestershire Live – and so on for all the other titles involved.

But hold on a minute, Trinity Mirror… websites that you proudly admit are “reaching more local people per day than at any time since the 1970s” have surely been built on the brand of www.leicestermercury.co.uk et al.

Trinity Mirror's rebranded Birmingham Live website

Trinity Mirror’s rebranded Birmingham Live website

Why, then, do you think you need to change those brands again? (The word ‘again’ because it’s not the first time in the last ten years that these titles have had their websites changed, is it?)

This is an even bigger challenge when there are so many inconsistencies in this rebranding – such as the much-quoted misnomer of making the Burton Mail’s offering sit under Derbyshire Live, when Burton is actually based in Staffordshire. What’s the thinking here?

2/ Why does this rebrand mean that 49 jobs are to be lost?

You need to be honest with yourselves here, Trinity Mirror, simply telling things as they are rather than dressing them up as progress.

If you’re launching a new brand online, and at the same time continuing with an old brand in print, doing those two very different things doesn’t naturally equal fewer jobs, does it?

Trying to sell that as part of your story cheapens both products – digital and print – and leaves the staff you’re trying to lead through change feeling cheated, inadequate and demoralised.

Just tell the truth: your revenues are falling to such an extent that you need to reduce your costs.

Don’t pretend that it’s the magic of online that makes this possible, because everyone knows that the editorial offerings would be much better if you retained more journalists.

Job losses are always painful, but they feel much worse if the reasons behind them are fudged.

3/ Why are you splitting online and digital staff?

When the modern face of digital publishing first emerged, publishers initially tried to hide from it by creating an ‘online’ office down the corridor, and sometimes on a different floor.

It took years to remove the barriers that were built up, to integrate the whole editorial floor with the team spirit needed to tackle breaking news websites alongside print.

But integrate them you did – focusing one team on shared targets and visions that spoke of ‘quality local journalism’ as the common theme, irrespective of platform.

Now you’re splitting the teams again, not only in job role but in location too in the case of Birmingham Live, making the remaining print team feel like the last men and women standing.

They feel, and in many cases have been told, that their days are numbered, and that soon you won’t need them any more.

Is that good leadership? (And is it even true, given that the majority of revenues are still coming in through the print product?)

4/ What do the readers think?

Yes, you say you’ve tried the ‘Live’ theme out at what was once the Birmingham Mail, and you’ve told the world that it’s working. Please explain how by answering these sub-questions:

  • What audience increases have you seen since Birmingham Live was launched?
  • How much bigger have those rises been than what you were already experiencing with audience growth under www.birminghammail.co.uk?
  • When you held audience focus groups – assuming you did – what did readers tell you they liked more about Birmingham Live compared to www.birminghammail.co.uk?
  • In short, what quantitative or qualitative evidence is there that supports the change in nomenclature for sister titles in Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, Bristol, Stoke and Burton (but not Liverpool)?

5/ What happens when readers want to return to trusted media brands?

This is a big question at a time when the experts tell us readers will eventually get fed up with ‘fake news’ and will want to return to reliable media brands that they know and respect.

To quote Mark Hollinshead, Trinity Mirror’s former chief operating officer who only last year was brought back in by the publisher to advise them on the future:

“They [regional news sites] will become more influential as audiences continue to grow and revert to more trusted sources of news and information.”

But how can this ever happen if those trusted regional news sites have been rebranded as something entirely different, ignoring the century-old titles they emerged from?

In short, what’s left for anyone to return to? Pray tell, Trinity Mirror, and help the regional sector to understand what on earth you’re playing at, because that’s what everyone is asking.

44 comments

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  • February 21, 2018 at 9:45 am
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    A really excellent set of pertinent questions. None better than the one that points out the sleight of hand over job cuts.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 10:34 am
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    Spot on, Steve. It would be great if David Higgerson answered these questions in detail!

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  • February 21, 2018 at 10:56 am
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    Another question is whether the BBC or the taxpayer, me, will want their money back on the regional press deal?
    All that will be left soon at some of these titles are taxpayer-funded journalists.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 10:58 am
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    The re-establishment of the apparently arbitrary division between digital and print is, I am led to believe, accompanied by their division into two separate financial entities. This will finally enable TM to demonstrate to all those whining inky naysayers just how much its highly profitable digital operations are subsidising its loss-making print titles and prove just how smart it was to focus its resources on online operations for so many years.
    Yes, I think I’ve understood that correctly.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 11:06 am
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    The only way you can get away with jobs cuts on this scale is to slash what you cover.
    So, to take one example – sport. Presumably anyone in this area is going to start seeing an awful lot more centralised copy. After all, everyone is interested in Wolves and West Brom and Aston Villa, and won’t want to know what is happening at, say, Walsall, never mind Nuneaton and Tamworth. Just as well, because plainly there won’t be the resources to cover the National League North properly any more.
    Maybe Mr Dyson’s questions will provoke a response from TM. The company spokespeople are very quick to hit back at what they perceive at criticism on other occasions.This time they have been very quiet. Funny that.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 11:15 am
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    Nicely done Nr D.

    With the branding I tend to think of it as Devon, Live! My mind’s eye sees a TM CEO performing CPR on a media corpse and wailing “Please live we’re pumping so much into you, you cannae die yet”

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  • February 21, 2018 at 11:50 am
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    Really good article. But things are even worse for some of us. In the Thames Valley TM closed the print titles and went online only. The result was awful.
    However, they’ve now landed us with the Inyourarea concept. They’ve achieved a lot – it is even worse than awful!

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  • February 21, 2018 at 12:19 pm
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    All that now appears in our TM paper are stories that have been written for the web. Wrap is no longer written by reporters, which means diary events – craft fayres, mother and toddler group meetings, etc – no longer appear in the paper. If we need wrap we are instructed to take it from a sister paper which lies three counties away. Ignoring local events, which have been the staple of local media for generations, does not seem the cleverest idea.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 12:22 pm
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    Oh, and when the likes of the excellent Roy Greenslade are posting comments on here, you sense this is a very big deal indeed.
    I look forward to a Trinity Mirror spokesman insisting Mr Greenslade is full of hyperbole, just like the union rep who dared suggest the axing of 49 jobs was a bad day for the industry.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 1:35 pm
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    Ex-sports Hack is spot on about the minutiae of daily life no longer being covered by local reporters.
    When I was growing up I had reason to read my local West Midlands Press weekly every week, not just because it was of general interest but because I felt genuine connections to things it covered.
    There were events at my school, happenings at the places my parents or other family members worked, planning applications near where I lived, pronouncements and decisions by councillors I knew – and even the diamond wedding of my maternal grandparents – a purchased copy of the professionally taken, crisp, beaming picture still hanging on my parents’ wall some 40 years on.
    It is a rare local newspaper – here in the Midlands I can think only of the independent Stratford-upon-Avon Herald – which appears to come close to retaining such a connection with its readers and in turn truly connecting them with their community.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 2:27 pm
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    @Chris Rushton. I think it’s clear to see what Steve’s view is on what we’re doing, so much so he didn’t feel the need to actually seek any answers before publishing (which could have led to a much more informed debate and sensible challenge based on sensible conversation).

    To that end, there’s probably not a lot of point answering the questions Steve outlines, not least because past experience of trying to answer Steve’s questions tells me the answers he doesn’t like, he just ignores.

    There’s a lot of conjecture, rewriting of history and personal view presented as fact in Steve’s piece.

    Happy to talk to anyone about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, and always have been, but engaging with Steve here won’t result in a fair hearing. Happy to talk on Twitter though.

    Probably not the spat Chris was hoping for, but there you go…

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  • February 21, 2018 at 3:20 pm
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    Fair play to David Higgerson for putting his head above the parapet (again), though I’m not sure it’s wise to have a go at Steve Dyson here as one of the things he’s doing is fighting the good fight on behalf of the 49 people who are about to be made redundant.
    Why Trinity constantly seem to get aggressive when they are shedding staff is beyond me, and I suspect many others. It does them no favours.
    What are still missing are answers as to why more than four dozen jobs are being lost. We don’t want uppity statements from a faceless spokesman shouting down concerns from workers who are genuinely worried about how to pay their mortgage..
    Why are 49 jobs going? It’s that basic. If it’s because of falling revenues, fair enough. But that question needs asking again and again, because people are ignoring it again and again.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 3:24 pm
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    It’s a shame you’ve taken things so personally, @davidhiggerson, especially when my column made no personal reference to anybody.

    I realise that it’s a time of change for the industry, and that many things happening will be out of your control. That’s why the questions were aimed at the very top. Don’t feel they were aimed at you. You don’t have to shoulder everything for Trinity Mirror.

    But for anyone who’s interested, here’s a 1,700-word plus interview I carried out with David just over three years ago… with plenty of space for all his answers on digital strategy. Not much said about the latest developments, mind… http://www.inpublishing.co.uk/kb/articles/newsroom_31__a_progress_report_1445.aspx

    As for answers, David, if TM do put you up for them (and again, I think they should be answered by someone more senior) but if you are the person, then I’m sure Htfp would welcome it. That’s why the questions were asked …

    Best wishes,

    Steve

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  • February 21, 2018 at 3:43 pm
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    If ever there was a cop-out it is David Higgerson’s response to Steve Dyson’s comments and questions. To simply say there’s not a lot of point answering the questions because he (Steve) will ignore the ones he doesn’t like is nonsense – and easily solvable. Simply print the answers here or get HtFP to do a follow-up article. To be honest, Steve’s questions are largely obvious – and the answers are probably just as obvious, namely that the real reason for the changes and resulting job losses is to save money. And the inescapable truth is that when you can’t cut any more you’re left with closing titles. I do sympathise with David as these decisions are clearly being made by someone higher up in TM, but in that case don’t shoot the messenger ie Steve for putting the questions.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm
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    Thanks Steve. I’m not taking anything personally, I just don’t think firing up a load of questions without trying to get the answers up front is a particularly good way of achieving anything over that a quick column written.

    As your inpublishing feature shows, I’ve been happy to talk in the past, so it strikes me as odd you wouldn’t seek to get the answers you feel need answering.

    To clarify one point – we’ve not hidden the reason for job losses. I’ve just read through the announcements made in newsrooms which made very clear that revenue declines in print are not yet being fully replaced by digital revenues. I’m not sure where the idea that there was a sleight of hand comes from, but it was made clear in staff announcements.

    Again, had you sought to put these questions to anyone at TM prior to publication, we could have given answers. But your blog, your rules!

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  • February 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm
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    Come on, @davidhiggerson – you know how journalism works! since launching in 2010 Dyson at Large has always been an opinion column on Htfp, and opinion columns regularly ask questions in public, challenging the powers that be to answer. It’s perfectly normal, and you know that! The space is yours to answer in, as always. Best wishes, Steve

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  • February 21, 2018 at 4:17 pm
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    All Subbed out. Spot on. Whatever happened to unexciting but worthy features such as wedding reports and pictures, obits on non-celebrity but well loved local people, diamond and golden anniversary reports? Hardly see them now in any weekly paper. My theory is people used to enjoy popping into their LOCAL paper office have a chat with a LOCAL reporter and maybe even place an ad to complement the feature. Now there is no LOCAL office, no permanent LOCAL reporter, and very little LOCAL news. Probably have to contact someone 20 miles off patch. Take note TM, JP NQ et al.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 5:22 pm
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    Nice try Steve. Comment is free etc etc. I thought we only resorted to asking the questions like this when we had failed to get them ahead of publication? Always up for sensible debate, but still at a loss as to why these five big questions weren’t worth investigating in advance. but maybe I misunderstood.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm
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    There will be no need to watch Corrie tonight if this entertaining spat continues into the evening. On a more useful note to those losing their jobs, if you have the stomach to stay in the industry and are interested in giving your own hyperlocal a go, I and others who have already taken the plunge would be more than happy to give advice and encouragement. Have a look at what the good people at Cardiff Uni are doing as part if the ICNN programme.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 5:39 pm
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    Bless you @davidhiggerson … if you’d spent half the time you’ve now spent knocking the column in actually answering the questions, you’d have saved a lot of (digital) ink and paper!

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  • February 21, 2018 at 6:44 pm
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    All I read here is that Mr Higgerson fails to answer a single concern regarding the quality, depth and scope of proper local news reporting. I spent 30 years on local and regional newspapers – including growing new media – because I believed in their value to local communities and local democracy. Nothing Trinity Mirror is doing, and nothing that Mr Higgerson has posted here, leads me to believe that he or his company has the slightest interest in, or understanding of, local news media (as opposed to sensationalised, celebrity-obsessed, shallow red-top national titles). Neither web nor print will ever make money if it so under-resourced, vacuous and irrelevant to the towns or counties supposedly served that it’s only readers are those taking a brief, disinterested glance at clickbait.

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  • February 21, 2018 at 11:11 pm
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    And before any smart-alec says it, yes I do know where apostrophes go in its and it’s but the darned predictive text on my tablet keeps foiling me. At least this isn’t a news website where inexperienced and over-pressured reporters are posting any old stuff unsubbed as fast as possible in order to meet targets. Now that would be crazy, unprofessional and often just plain wrong. Good job Trinity Mirror’s websites are all so thoroughly researched and quality controlled by a huge highly-trained team with detailed local knowledge. Oh, wait – sorry, just woken up from a daydream there.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 7:32 am
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    Why do people on here think Steve Dyson is fighting some sort of fight on behalf of journalists. It’s just an opinion piece and I’m surprised it’s getting any interest from TM at all.

    Would like to know why Steve Dyson didn’t ask the questions to TM in the first place. Surely they would have answered him, given his status in the journalism community? A lot of heat but little warmth.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 7:49 am
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    I suspect, even had Mr Dyson’s questions been put to TM, the answers would have raised even more questions. Mr Higgerson’s statement that job losses are due to the decline in print revenue not yet being matched by an increase in digital income, for example, would seem to imply that the business is losing money as a result, which TM’s results would seem to indicate is not the case. The vast majority of its profits, as I understand it, still come from print, which has been and continues to be stripped of staff and robbed of resources, and yet still brings in several times what digital produces. So his answer, if it can be dignified with such a word, only prompts yet another question; why are you sacking experienced staff working on your profitable products, while spending money on yet more digital turd-polishing? I’m not on Twitter, Mr Higgerson, so I’m afraid you may have to answer my question in complete sentences, time-consuming though I appreciate that is likely to be.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 8:44 am
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    These changes, and many more like them, are essential if TM is to survive while the digital world becomes clearer and, hopefully, more lucrative.

    They could give up now, resist changes and quickly tip into losses. A la Oldham. But, that doesn’t sound awfully sensible to me.

    Or, they could go on making difficult decisions and buying time while new digital revenue streams emerge.

    It’s not pleasant, but it’s not particularly difficult to understand either.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 10:14 am
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    So despite print still accounting for most of the profit that there is, Voice Of Reason thinks it’s fine that print continually bears the brunt of the cuts. By that logic I look forward to Tesco’s next announcement of which most profitable stores it is closing in order to keep loss-making branches open.
    And still no actual response from Mr Higgerson or anyone else in TM to the concerns raised here, from which we can only conclude that trivial things like local news and the scope of local reporting really is of no interest whatsoever to the likes of Mr Higgerson.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 10:24 am
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    If these are the 5 big questions Dyson needs answering, it says more about how out of touch he is with what goes on these days. Most of the answers are obvious. When was the last time Dyson spent any time in the newsrooms he writes about?

    Like Voice of Reason says, it’s not hard to understand.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 11:06 am
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    If Trinity Mirror are so keen to ditch the names of their historic titles and call everything ‘Live’, how much would they be willing to sell the names of those original titles for?
    Asking for a friend.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 11:34 am
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    @Darren Parkin – I think your friend knows the answer there!

    @All Subbed Out – It’s wrong to say just because I’m not answering Steve’s questions on here, I don’t care about local news. I and my colleagues do, but we aren’t accountable to Steve, who could have got all the answers he wanted if he’d rung.

    To your points, we face two challenges. The first is revenue – the link between those who pay for journalism to be created and the revenue generated from it has been weakened massively. We need to find a way to solve that.

    Some people argue for investment in print instead, and there are plenty of cases where people have tried that – but very rarely (if ever) does it make a difference to two key trends: People getting their news online, and advertising migrating online.

    The second challenge is getting people to care about local news in the way we assume they did when print was at its peak (and we often forget the many other reasons people bought newspapers, such as for ad platforms). It’s easy to point at individual articles online which you don’t think meet your bar of good journalism, but it’s wrong to say that is typical of what we do, or indeed that content you don’t like isn’t appreciated by lots of other people.

    At TM we look at both headline metrics (like page views) and also metrics which show we’re having an impact with important stories. Part of our job now is to make people interested in stuff we feel they need to know – it’s not enough to just say we’ve written it.

    I’ll try and answer @steerpike’s question like this: The majority of local people get their local news online now, so we need to be make sure we are giving people what they want, where they want it, if we are to have a future. It’s also where the revenue is growing.

    I’ve worked with editors who preferred to stop content going online, or massively delaying it – and it didn’t change the print trend at all. Nor did paywalls around content.

    Based on the tone of your question, I suspect it’s not the answer that you’ll agree with, but at least it saves you signing up to Twitter.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 1:13 pm
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    Many thanks for everyone’s involvement in this story via comments.

    A last note from me on this trail.

    At times when huge and ongoing changes or controversies occur in any industry or sector, it is the role of journalism to hold owners, bosses and change managers to account.

    From Co-op to Carillion, from BHS pensions to Oxfam, and from Grenfell to Brexit – you name the subject, and journalists are scrutinising every angle, and challenging every assumption.

    The bosses and politicians never like it, but it’s what the Western media does.

    The regional media is another sector where ongoing changes or controversies are occurring, and it deserves challenging when jobs, titles and brands that help democracy are concerned.

    Again, the powers that be don’t seem to like it. Tough.

    And tough underlined given it’s a journalistic sector, where those involved should know (and do know really) that they should be challenged.

    Hats off as always to @DavidHiggerson who – amid huge pressure – is the only boss at Trinity Mirror who makes an effort to explain.

    Thank you especially for you last comment attempting to provide some insight, David.

    But shame on your bosses for leaving you to do that alone, and for one of them not answering the big questions that remain.

    I won’t repeat too much the debate we’ve had above and on Twitter about what column-blogs like Dyson at Large exist for, but in short they are for opinion-led challenges to what’s going on in the world.

    Not many columns like that interview everyone for quoting – that’s for the news stories before and after, or for in-depth features of the kind I regularly write for InPublishing. http://www.inpublishing.co.uk/related/steve_dyson

    But to clarify, this column was researched, involving three in-depth chats for information with journalists and editorial managers involved on the front line, and with a dozen more sending personal notes afterwards reflecting their thanks that someone was making the challenge.

    And so finally, well done to HoldtheFrontPage editor Paul Linford and his staff for hosting the debate.

    See you next month!…

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  • February 22, 2018 at 2:15 pm
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    Always a pleasure Steve.

    Important to note that no-one is objecting to scrutiny, as you seem to imply, or objecting to tough questions. What I objected to – and still do – is the fact that you made no effort to get answers to some pretty basic questions. You have the numbers of many of my colleagues, and mine, and could easily have called to ask questions. To start, could have corrected your errors.

    It’s like going into a council meeting and shouting questions at the chairman and then claiming you didn’t get a reply because he didn’t like the questions.

    As you said on Twitter, scrutiny of companies is really important. But equally important is doing it in such a way that you get the answers to carry out the scrutiny. And publishing them in this way when not seeking to get answers from people in your contacts book to inform what you write, in my opinion, undermines the whole column.

    As ever, happy to comment (in a personal capacity) on here whenever I can add anything of use.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 3:11 pm
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    If they’re so simple, I’d suggest someone at TM just fully answers the Qs, Dave, as they’re out there. We all understand that you can only do so much. No need to repeat the column debate… I know why you have to say what you’ve said. But upstairs at TM should take note. Best wishes to you at this difficult time.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 3:53 pm
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    Must be clear to everyone on here why people at companies don’t bother commenting on here. Steve Dyson ignores questions posed to him, and patronises anyone who doesn’t agree with him or (shock!) holds his journalism to account.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 4:15 pm
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    Nice try ‘@tippex’ – aka a TM manager not wanting to share their identity! But you’ve failed to divert attentions. The 5x Qs are quite clear. And they’re very much in the public arena. Ball is now in TM’s court. Over and out, my anonymous friend… unless you’d like to debate 1-1, and I’m on steve.dysonmedia@gmail.com for you whenever you’re ready. 😉

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  • February 22, 2018 at 5:16 pm
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    Mr Higgerson makes some points which, though superficially valid, lack context.
    Digital revenue is growing, but from a minuscule base, by an amount no one seems prepared to specify in actual hard cash and not at anything like the rate which will keep TM shareholders in the style to which they have become accustomed. Print revenue is falling – given the cuts it has suffered in editorial and advertising personnel to subsidise digital, it’s little wonder. While Mr Higgerson is always prepared to pick up the cudgels in defence of his digital Utopia, and fair play to him for that, TM itself is wavering; it shut down its digital development unit, it endlessly tinkers with its websites and only succeeds in making them worse and it’s apparently refocusing its attention on print in certain areas of the country because the penny has apparently dropped somewhere in the corridors of power that a product which can be bled dry for ten years and still doesn’t die might just conceivably have something going for it.
    And as I have said repeatedly on this forum and others for many a year, it is not, fundamentally, about print versus digital; it is about quality journalism which is worth paying for versus mildly diverting pap which can only be given away, pandering to the lowest common denominator (and getting lower all the time) and supported by intrusive advertising which can easily be blocked. The stories I see on TM websites I see are, with very few exceptions, meretricious and massively overwritten, where they are written at all and not copied verbatim from press releases issued by commercial concerns which ought to be paying to advertise (but why would they, when there no longer seems to be a recognisable boundary between news and advertising, or between fact and opinion?). The same dross finds its way into papers which are, inexplicably, still bought by readers whose loyalty is repaid with higher prices and lower standards. Any other business would treat long-standing customers with respect; TM seems to think anyone who buys its print product is an idiot who obviously hasn’t heard that (according to the paradigm du jour) print is dead. Journalists who were once figures whose professionalism and knowledge commanded respect are now encouraged to ‘engage with the readers’ by descending to the gutter and getting involved in pathetic and infantile slanging-matches with their critics on social media. And still this base metal refuses to turn into gold.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 6:41 pm
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    @steerpike I’m responsible for the digital development team which works with our regional newsrooms, and unless you know something I don’t, we haven’t shut it down.

    I disagree with your summary of our online content, and I think it’s offensive to the hundreds of journalists who work primarily for our websites. It’s easy to take pot shots at specific stories, but we have more local people, visiting more often, and reading more stories than ever before.

    The point about ‘journalism people will pay for’ is one we used to hear a lot – yet when we did put paywalls around local news content online, very few people signed up. When editors tried to drive people to print by not putting stories online, or just summaries, they only succeeded in making rivals stronger or driving people elsewhere, to Facebook.

    There are no easy solutions, but we need to find them. What is clear is that trying to turn back the clock isn’t going to work – and our audiences are telling us that, both in terms of the audience analytics we see and in the ‘engaging with readers’ which you seem to think should be beneath us as journalists.

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  • February 22, 2018 at 6:45 pm
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    Got me in one Steve Dyson. I must be a TM manager too afraid to share my name on here. That must be the only reason I could possibly disagree with you. Keeping digging, my friend, keep digging. (and avoiding answering the questions put to you. Oh the irony)

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  • February 23, 2018 at 10:18 am
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    Apologies; I was misremembering having read about the redundancy of one of Mr Higgerson’s predecessors, clearly. But you don’t have to look far to find numerous examples of TM digital ventures whose lives have been brief and inglorious. I just continue to question the wisdom of letting the whims of your customers (if you can call someone who doesn’t spend any money a customer) define your business model. And I have no objection to journalists engaging with their public, but there’s such a thing as self-respect.

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  • February 23, 2018 at 10:54 am
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    Steve Dyson to Trinity Mirror: Do as I say, not as I do.

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  • February 23, 2018 at 1:25 pm
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    Here’s a 6th question, maybe for Mr Higgerson:

    If digital was profitable, why do you bother with the newspapers?

    Oh, and a 7th ..

    Why does EVERY regional news employee I know tell me that they feel their organisation regards the newspaper as simply a distraction.

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  • February 23, 2018 at 5:30 pm
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    @steerpike For 100 years or more, we had a business model which supported journalism – the bundling of stories into a newspaper which also served as the main way of advertising to people too. That model isn’t what it once was, both as advertising has moved online and people have chosen to get their news elsewhere (print decline wasn’t triggered by the arrival of online). So we need to find a new model. There are plenty of ideas being tried which don’t work, but it’s important we try them as some of them do. That’s no different to what we did in print – editions launch, editions close, supplements launch, supplements close. I think when being critical of digital launches which don’t work, we should ask: “What’s the alternative?”

    I also don’t think we should be dismissive of customers or readers habits – or whims, as you call them. Without readers/customers, we are nothing, either as a sustainable business or as a source of journalism which can do what journalism is meant to do – inform people, entertain people, and hold the powerful to account. If readers have decided they don’t feel they need to pay for local news, we need to find another way to make it pay – and we are doing that. I would argue that part of the problem we face now was caused by not paying enough attention to what readers were telling us 20 or 30 years ago.

    @once a sub. Your 7th question I don’t know the answer too. I don’t feel TM considers print a distraction – I know the editors I work with focus on digital because it is the future of local journalism.

    As for your sixth question … Wouldn’t everyone always jump at two ways of making a profit to sustain businesses which fund local journalism? It’s a bit like Tesco not selling profitable Warburtons bread because they turn a profit on Hovis already. Half the problem with these debates is that people see the world as ‘print v digital’ – surely it’s about reaching as many people as possible by whatever means we can.

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  • February 23, 2018 at 5:56 pm
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    @Davidhiggerson

    Speaking as somebody who was around local papers from the age of 4 till 39 and ran distribution on large parts of the country I actually find Trinity’s approach laughable. The fact that at one point you had a huge network of distribution networks up and down the country as well as tens of thousands of walkers delivering through the door and nobody could find a way to diversify the business is an indictment of how poor the upper corridors of Trinty really are when it comes to real business minded individuals.
    The growth of pallet networks, Amazon, door to door circulars that currently average 15 per week for me on the outskirts of West London, Targeted door drop media like Ikea and other such campaigns still mainly ran by Whistl and MF and the fact that you never challenged the likes of Media Force et all in the booking department to name but a few are all huge sways of revenue growth that any sound business would have taken advantage of when they had the resources you all had. But alas what was done instead, as is happening now, is a race to save lost revenue by cutting costs or titles instead to cover over the cracks for just a bit longer while the people at the top and the share holders still get everything they can out of it for as long as possible.

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