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Journalists to focus on digital as JPIMedia unveils newsroom restructure plan

Jeremy CliffordJPIMedia is set to trial a new newsroom structure which will see its journalists move away from the print production process and concentrate on digital work.

The regional publisher has announced a three-month pilot scheme in the North-East of England, which will see editorial staff split into three teams – focusing on digital, print and the company’s smaller titles in the region respectively.

Jeremy Clifford, pictured, editor in chief of JPIMedia, says the aim of the restructure is to “free our journalists from a production process so that they can concentrate on creating the best digital content”.

The titles involved in the pilot are dailies the Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail and Shields Gazette, as well as weeklies the Northumberland Gazette, News Post Leader, News Guardian, Berwick Advertiser and Morpeth Herald.

No jobs will be lost as a result of the move, although some journalists’ responsibilities may change as a result.

JPIMedia is also aiming to introduce new websites which will “significantly improve readers’ user experience” during the trial, which will begin in June.

In an announcement to staff, which has been seen by HTFP, Jeremy wrote: “For the past two months senior editors and leaders from across the business have been exploring new ways to build our digital operations and develop new sustainable revenue streams that are critical to the future of JPIMedia, its titles and employees.

“We are delighted to announce that the North-East titles will be piloting our Digital Acceleration programme for the editorial teams across JPIMedia. This represents a vote of confidence in the digital editorial strategy and will free our journalists from a production process so that they can concentrate on creating the best digital content.

“The Digital Acceleration programme is the transformational strategy we need in our newsrooms to secure the future for our business.”

Jeremy explained the North-East had been chosen to host the pilot “because it combines daily titles and weeklies, so we can test structures, workflows, and operating systems in newsrooms that can be replicated across our portfolio”.

He added: “Digital content plans informed by expert analytics will help to guide journalists in creating the right amount and type of news, sport and lifestyle content required by our audiences.

“A new content management system will be rolled out – Desk and Editor – which is web-based and will allow reporters to focus on digital storytelling rather than a production process. This enables a division between creating the right content for our digital needs and the means to take that content from the web into print.

“The new websites that are currently being tested will be deployed as part of the pilot, as well as new laptops and mobiles to support the journalists, accompanied by new Google Academy training.”

27 comments

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  • April 24, 2019 at 9:23 am
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    Does he actually believe what he is saying?
    He may as well have been pictured with a white flag of surrender to mark the closure of so many titles in the months/weeks ahead.
    Closed titles and pay walls (which will not work, of course).
    Maybe it is all a ploy to persuade more people to apply for redundancy at JPI. Anyone previously pondering it will now surely join a Gadarene like rush to get in the queue.
    There is just no enthusiasm on the part of the JPI management to maintain print. It is clear in every utterance they make.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 9:28 am
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    Something about barn doors and horses!

    JPI have destroyed local news through greed and shortsightedness and now they have apparently realised that digital is where their audience is?

    Do they understand their sector at all?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 9:31 am
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    But this isn’t new, it’s what Reach PLC have been doing for the past couple of years!

    Welcome to the party.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 10:14 am
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    Remember all those experienced hacks who warned that the digital chase would be the death of printed newspapers and were condemned as doom mongers by those Alices and others living in Wonderland. Sadly they were right.
    This policy, right or not, spells the end of print under JP Mark 2 and the last rites for many once-superb weekly papers.
    If you love digital journalism this might just be for you, though the digital empire is built on dangerously shifting sands.
    Otherwise it might be a good time to beat it altogether from local journalism.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 10:18 am
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    “The Digital Acceleration programme is the transformational strategy we need in our newsrooms to secure the future for our business.” About 10 years too late in my book.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 10:52 am
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    😁 😆 😆 This happened ages ago… Nothing new. We have a digital team and print team down south. Sigh….
    Be great to see new web platforms, 30-second videos where you have to wait for 5 minutes before it loads cos of all the ads queuing up.
    Anyone else give local rags about two more years in print?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 11:04 am
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    It’s confirmation of what we all know irrespective of which of the ailing publishing groups you’re at.
    Running down your print portfolio to focus on the low cost option of digital has always been the agenda but it’s the rapidity at which the fall off in copy sales has happened followed in tandem by the withdrawal of advertisers which had prompted the headlong rush into online media.
    Of course the audiences have grown, if you give anything away for free there’ll be thousands who’ll take it, the big problem these groups now have is how to monetise an audience of readers who are not used to paying for the news and how to attract as revenue from businesses who have other, far more effective and low cost options, particularly when for the past decade or so the ad people have failed miserably to attract more than a dribble onto the bottom lines.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 11:31 am
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    So, cutting through the management speak, they want plenty of clickbait, rather than real news or stories about people from their patches. And the most clicked stories will end up as splashes, or early pages. And even if they have been read online for six days, they will still be used as the lead stories rather than writing something new that matters to the community. No wonder people think print is dying. The main publishing groups are doing their best to kill it off, all following the same failing patterns, each passing it off as their own, exciting, model, blindly following along like lemmings, or sheep.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 12:13 pm
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    Sign of the times I’m sad to say. Just check the circulations of all three daily papers, I doubt they’ll exist in five years’ time. As a former editor of the Shields Gazette, it’s gut wrenching to see it selling so few copies but we live in a different age and newspapers are no longer an essential part of people’s lives.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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    Em rule. And it shows. the editing on weeklies in particular is dreadful. poor grammar, story construction, style, etc etc. And it seems sent-in sports reports are not edited at all. Obviously little attention paid to print. The writing is on the wall.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 2:55 pm
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    So how much longer can local print stay afloat? Surely even two years is wildly optimistic. For a long time now I feel we’ve been slipping dangerously close to the water mark – and all the lifeboats have left…

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  • April 24, 2019 at 3:01 pm
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    The switch of focus to digital and the almost complete abandonment of investment and development of printed papers isn’t a surprise to anyone, we’ve all seen it coming for a long time,I’m just curious to know how they and the other regional publishing groups think they can sustain the businesses relying on digital revenue alone?

    If anyone given the offer of voluntary redundancy at JPI is in any doubt as to whether to take it,this latest announcement should help them make up their minds.

    To think the local press, once a fantastic career for talented journalists,has been finally reduced to writing by numbers.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 4:06 pm
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    Why don’t they suggest that the printed newspaper, which people pay for, should “significantly improve readers’ user experience”?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 4:46 pm
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    Because it’s a dying medium, EditorAnne, just look at the pitiful ABC copy sales the main publishers papers are recording,the time to invest in print was 5 or so years ago and by retaining the best people to develop what they had, commercial as well as editorial, not now when the paid for audience is almost gone

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  • April 24, 2019 at 5:56 pm
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    Unfortunately print really is dying. I got made redundant from JP back in 2017 and after a short break “re-entered” the industry with another one of the “big” players. The emphasis is totally digital revenue (doesn’t even have to be online display ads) and magazine revenue. Apparently the papers are so cheap to produce that BMD’s, some display advertising and cover prices take care of the print side of things. I’m not convinced by the digital thing, but hey, what do I know?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 6:04 pm
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    It’s the same at all the main publishers Despairingly, those who’ve diversified or have additional arms such as magazines are barely holding their own and covering costs but print to all extent and purpose has gone,the new independent publishers are picking up the baton and growing audience while making good small profits but what’s left of the bigger groups daily and weekly papers will simply continue to deteriorate, there’s no reversal of fortune

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  • April 24, 2019 at 7:59 pm
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    It is probably true that some, or many, or perhaps even most, of the “main publisher” papers have deteriorated to a point where they might be said to be dying. Could this be because recent years have seen many/most publishers shift focus to ‘digital audience’, even if it loses money, rather than focus on making an honest profit from print? “i” has shown how successful and profitable a modern paper can be. Look at how many local titles have launched this century. Some magazine format, some monthly, but print none the less. They are mostly profitable, and generally popular enough. Look at NQ’s willingness to buy titles. Did NQ spend millions on acquisitions in the hope of losing money? Of course not, they bought them to turn a profit. Print is changing, but it’s not dying. Go back as far as you like and you’ll find failing titles. The Daily Sketch comes to mind. That got into trouble at about the time The Sun launched. The Sketch finished in about 1971 but The Sun became the highest circulation paid for. If titles truly aren’t profitable, “main publishers” would surely sell them or close them. After all, if they believe “print is dead” they can’t seriously be hanging on in the hope of a better tomorrow.

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  • April 25, 2019 at 8:08 am
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    Anne Editor. I recall a JP “decline manager” telling newspaper staff that it didn’t matter if newspaper sales fell because it would reduce print costs. One paper he was talking about fell from 22,000 a week peak to a present 2,000. So they got their wish. Maybe they can manage on this level, but the quality of the paper is now abysmal and it fills with news from outside its circulation area because it doesn’t have enough staff to hunt down local news. Anyone else recognise this scenario?
    Maybe print will survive at a basic level with very low sales, and used mainly to promote the websites. But I can’t see it reviving to be a high quality product in its own right. Those were the days my friend…

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  • April 25, 2019 at 8:20 am
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    Whether we like it or not regional papers in print from the main publishers are on their last legs, one look at the latest ABC figures is all the proof you need, look back 5-8-10 years and the decline is staggering.
    Groups but other groups for many reasons, breathing life into outdated papers haemorrhaging money and trying to kick start them isn’t one of them.
    We should all support the new kids on the block, some not so new now having established themselves in their communities years ago,those genuinely providing a good grass roots news and advert service to the towns and villages lost by the main players, they’re the future of printed news

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  • April 25, 2019 at 8:28 am
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    In case anyone hasn’t noticed, young people don’t buy newspapers. They do look at their phones all day, though.

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  • April 25, 2019 at 8:56 am
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    What about HTFP having a poll? “Does print have a future?”

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  • April 25, 2019 at 9:25 am
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    I’ll just leave this hanging: “free our journalists from a production process”

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  • April 25, 2019 at 9:52 am
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    Itsayshere – where I worked, reporters were told in 2017 that they were being freed from “the tyranny of print”. Basically it meant they churned out copy for the website without being bothered about having to fill set holes or word counts. Anything which might have required a bit more time – such as a flight of nibs – was axed.

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  • April 26, 2019 at 11:14 am
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    Come on big boys and girls. Show us your digital money, not your clickbait counts.

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  • April 30, 2019 at 12:45 pm
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    Margaret Thatcher eyes new ‘digital coal mines’.

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