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New owner vows to localise JPIMedia and shun ‘clickbait’

David Montgomery has vowed to decentralise JPIMedia and replace what he termed “irrelevant or clickbait stories” with exclusive local content across its titles.

The chairman of National World, the publisher’s new owner, has announced the launch of a process to “devolve responsibility” to local managers after a £10.2m takeover which was announced on New Year’s Eve.

In an upbeat message to staff this morning, Mr Montgomery also pledged to eschew what he called the “current trend of media businesses pursuing a one size fits all approach” and revealed plans to grow the company with a new strategy built around local management teams.

And he urged JPIMedia colleagues to “rally behind the plan to invigorate our publications and create a new operating model based on quality content and premium sales”.

JPI titles

In his welcome message, which has been seen by HTFP, Mr Montgomery said:” Quite simply JPI is to be restored as a local publishing business, locally managed with clear plans to grow the business by implementing a modern operating model.

“The most important component of that is our intention to better serve the communities that make up our audience and the local businesses on which their livelihoods depend.

“We have commenced the process of decentralising the company and will devolve responsibility to the talented commercial and editorial managers who live and work in the cities, towns and the regions where our products circulate.

“Our publications will be enhanced with unique local content to provide advertisers with the best environment to promote their services.”

Mr Montgomery went on to assert National World’s belief that “geographical and creative diversity overseen by local management will better distinguish our products, in both print and online and in video and on mobile”.

He added: “This strategy stands out from the current trend of media businesses pursuing a one size fits all approach.

“National World will use technology to provide a more bespoke service to the communities we serve and forge a journalistic formula that replaces irrelevant or clickbait stories with exclusive content to enhance local lives.

“Our directors have long experience in the industry and are confronting head on the need to replace the traditional publishing model. As a team and as individuals we have worked for JPI titles in the past, and indeed competed against them, and our respect for their heritage is immense. This will equip us well to undertake a transformation and create a sustainable future.”

In the message, Mr Montgomery went on to introduce fellow National World directors Vijay Vaghela and Mark Hollinshead, who are respectively the former chief financial officer of Reach plc and former chief operating officer of Reach plc’s forerunner Trinity Mirror.

Mr Montgomery said Mr Vagehla would look after the finances, Mr Hollinshead the revenues and that he himself would oversee content and digital development.

He added:  “At National World we have the utmost confidence that our strategy will succeed. However, by no means do we have a monopoly on ideas and remedies.

“So we will be seeking input from all staff on a regular basis and therefore do not hesitate to contact any one of us with your ideas. Each day the news agenda throws up fresh commercial and editorial opportunities and it is our intention to involve all of you in contributing to our growth in the form of great journalism and developing new revenues.

“Day in day out it will not be the centre – but rather our local staff, journalists and commercial staff alike – who will be the beating heart of the company.

“The challenge is an exhilarating one because the business of publishing is no ordinary business. Done creatively our company can conjure up the spirit of its founders and inject dynamism into local economies and local democracy.

“In the short term we will work hard to ensure the business is appropriately structured and efficiently run to ensure we can overcome the challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing structural challenges facing print media.

“At the same time we will enhance our digital footprint and revenue capabilities. We look forward to supporting your efforts as we work together to create the UK’s leading local news publisher across all platforms.”

HTFP has approached JPIMedia and National World for further comment.