The UK’s biggest regional publisher Reach plc has announced a huge redundancy programme with 450 jobs across the business set to go, including 320 editorial roles.
Staff arrived at work this morning to receive the devastating news in a message from chief executive Jim Mullen, pictured.
Mr Mullen said the company would be announcing major changes “to the way we operate, the way we’re structured, and the way we’re meeting the challenges facing our industry.”
He added: “There’s no hiding from the fact that as part of these changes, we’re proposing to make an estimated 450 roles across the business redundant and withdraw some vacancies.”
A subsequent message from chief digital publisher David Higgerson revealed that, of the 450 jobs to go, 320 would come from editorial.
David said that details of how the restructure will affect individual journalists would be shared by “local leaders” later today, however his email gave some clues as to what may change.
These include: changes to working weeks and patterns in some areas, bringing all digital and print content teams together, and creating a combined production and video “centre of excellence” across editorial and commercial departments.
David also highlighted the need to create content centred on user needs, adding that this will mean stopping doing things that “don’t resonate with readers any more.”
The loss of the 320 editorial roles represents around an eighth of Reach’s entire editorial workforce which numbers around 2,500.
The shock move follows a fall in digital advertising revenues over the course of the year as a result of changes to algorithms which have resulted in the downgrading of news content.
In his email, David said that that current trading environment was “the most challenging period for commercially-funded journalism” since he came into the industry, in 1997.
He wrote: “Increasingly, referrers like Facebook and Google are opting to keep readers on their platforms rather than sending them on to publishers – the authentic, trustworthy sources of information. Newer platforms like TikTok have no mechanism to send audiences to websites at all.
“The impact we’re seeing is significant, and we can only expect further change to come – the BBC’s ramp-up of its online journalism operations will also likely change the media landscape as we know it.
“The scale of their impact, paired with continued audience behaviour change, mean we need to fundamentally change what we do and the way we do it, to build a growing and secure audience for the future.
“We will continue to produce quality printed products – our newspapers and magazines – while focusing at all times on building new relationships with online audiences.”
The National Union of Journalists has expressed its dismay at the announcement. National organiser Laura Davison said: “Members will be understandably shocked at the scale of redundancies, particularly with previous rounds already withstood in recent months and in the run up to Christmas.
“Reach’s efforts to address economic challenges must not come at the expense of journalists who fear for their job security and the impact of quality journalism only able to thrive with the experience and talent of staff.
“We will be liaising with both our reps and the company to ensure the best possible outcomes for members at this immensely difficult time.
“Reach must act in the spirit of genuine and meaningful engagement, allowing for a flexible and transparent consultation process that dedicated journalists deserve.”
Further details of the structural changes have yet to be announced, but Mr Mullen said they would “help sustain our print products while enabling us to pursue a greater digital audience.”
Below is Jim Mullen’s message in full, followed by David Higgerson’s message to editorial staff. More on this story to follow.
Good morning everyone
Today we’re announcing plans to make changes to the way we operate, the way we’re structured and the way we’re meeting the challenges facing our industry.
There’s no hiding from the fact that as part of these changes, we’re proposing to make an estimated 450 roles across the business redundant and withdraw some vacancies.
I understand that change, particularly at this scale and after a year that has already brought many challenges for our business and our people, will be unsettling. Your local leader will speak to you directly as soon as possible to explain the plans in more detail and what they mean for you.
I want to be very clear that these plans are about reducing costs against the backdrop of continuing pressures on the business from the economic environment we’re operating in.
Just as importantly though, they’re about recognising that even with the digital strength and scale we’ve built over the years, we’re in a fight to get our journalism in front of as many people as possible. The changes will help sustain our print products while enabling us to pursue a greater digital audience.
The world of news production and consumption continues to change. As customers’ habits evolve rapidly, so must we, to make sure our brands and our content remain influential and impactful.
What will not change is our commitment to quality journalism. The challenge now is to ensure that it continues to get seen, gets noticed, engages and makes a difference.
Hard work over the last few years means we have established ourselves as a leading digital publisher. We understand much more about our audience, allowing us to drive better customer value. We’ve developed our online products and grown new audiences, including through our successful expansion into the US.
But there’s more to do and today is about organising our business and our cost base to deliver against that challenge.
Our industry has a history of change and the future will undoubtedly involve yet more. That’s why it’s essential we set ourselves up to win, by making our operations suited to an increasingly fast-paced, competitive and customer-focused digital world.
I do not underestimate the impact that this news will have on all of our employees and I want to assure you that we will work through these changes with fairness and integrity. We will work closely with union and employee representatives in a thorough consultation process to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum and end uncertainty for our people as soon as possible.
We want to redeploy people where possible and support our colleagues to have rewarding careers working with us as the business moves forward and we deliver on our plans.
I ask that as we go through this process we show respect for those affected and get behind the changes needed to align our business to the fast-changing landscape we operate in.
I will stay in touch as we work through the changes we need to make. I hope that you’re able to join me as I talk through them in a bit more detail in a livestream later today. After that I will share a form so that you can ask me questions directly.
As you will have seen in Jim’s announcement this morning, today we’re sharing our plans to make important changes to our whole business to strengthen our position in the market, as it continues to change rapidly.
The need to change – and, candidly, reduce cost – to address the challenges we’re facing and strengthen our position as a leading digital publisher for the long-term is being set out across our business today.
At the heart of this is a desire to protect our journalism and make sure it’s as wide-reaching and influential in the future as it has been, and deserves to be. The responsibility and privilege of shaping our brand and content strategy sits with me and my team and so I want to be open with you about how we’re approaching these changes as an Editorial operation.
I will not shy away from the fact that these plans do mean proposed redundancies across the business, including an anticipated 320 from our Editorial teams. This is a number we expect to change as we work through a thorough consultation process and look at alternatives, including voluntary redundancy and deployment. But that doesn’t change the fact that these proposals mean significant change right across Editorial, impacting every newsroom and team.
Understandably, I expect you will first want to hear from your local leader about what this means for you, your role, your team and your title. We will do our very best to make sure that happens today.
While those conversations take place it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share specifics on structural change just yet; for that reason I’m going to host a number of Editorial town halls next Thursday and Friday (16th and 17th) to discuss the plans in depth – more details on those to follow.
For now I want to be clear about the direction of travel for our Editorial function to overcome what is frankly the most challenging period for commercially-funded journalism since I entered the industry 26 years ago.
Why we need to change
We know that when people see our journalism, they want to engage with it. Increasingly however, referrers like Facebook and Google are opting to keep readers on their platforms rather than sending them on to publishers – the authentic, trustworthy sources of information. Newer platforms like TikTok have no mechanism to send audiences to websites at all.
The impact we’re seeing is significant, and we can only expect further change to come – the BBC’s ramp-up of its online journalism operations will also likely change the media landscape as we know it.
I know that none of these things will be news to you, and I also know there’s lots of great work being done to tackle them and progress being made. But the scale of their impact, paired with continued audience behaviour change, mean we need to fundamentally change what we do and the way we do it, to build a growing and secure audience for the future.
What this means for us
Today we’re setting out plans to move our cost base and operations to reflect the reality of the digital publishing market – and move to a more audience-led model in all of our newsrooms
Given the diversity of our portfolio, that will mean different things in different teams. But for all our titles, it’ll mean learning from our past and building on what we do brilliantly. We will continue to produce quality printed products – our newspapers and magazines – while focusing at all times on building new relationships with online audiences.
We have a strong track record in building successful digital strategies. Our regional titles grew to industry-leaders globally when they went digital first; the Mirror became a global powerhouse on Facebook for a number of years, and right across the business, we have redefined what sports journalism means in the digital age.
We’ll do new things too – a path well trodden by many of our teams already. And, importantly, it will also mean stopping doing some things, things that have been important in the past but that no longer serve our audience or future goals.
Here are the key elements of our plan:
- Making every single newsroom future audience-led – putting digital audiences of the future at the heart of our operation is already a way of life across large parts of our editorial operation. This will become the norm, with our entire editorial operation focusing on building new, online, audience relationships. This means not only growing page views, but also growing secure audiences – readers who seek us out every day. Our newspapers and magazines, both nationally and regionally, remain incredibly important to us, and will be managed as such. In practical terms, this will mean changes to working weeks and patterns in some areas.
- Bringing all digital and print content teams together (as the majority of them already are). Our Editors across both Nationals and Regionals will be responsible for driving their brands’ content strategy forward, across all platforms, to deliver for their audiences now and in the future. In Sport, I’ve appointed Jon Livesey to lead this change in our Nationals, supported by Jake Murtagh and Paul Abdale; and in the Regions, Mat Kendrick will lead on it, reporting to Paul Rowland.
- Making all our content centred on user needs – we’ll be using our deep audience understanding to drive meaningful engagement and create content that resonates with all our audiences, cross-platform. This will involve adopting new ways of understanding data, and identifying new topics that make a difference to the lives of our audience. It will also mean we have to stop doing some things that don’t resonate with readers any more. We will be working with industry experts on this.
- Improving search – enabling us to be seen more often so we can build new, sustainable audience relationships.
- Driving audiovisual excellence – by creating a combined Editorial and Commercial creative, production and video centre of excellence.
Our success measures for 2024 will reflect this new way of working – we’ll continue with page view targets but we’ll introduce new, longer-term metrics on secure sources, engagement and loyalty.
The changes we’re announcing today are the right ones for the future of Editorial and Reach overall. But I accept that that does not mean they will be easy to work through. Not everyone will agree with every decision and we won’t get everything right along the way.
Today and the days that follow are about making sure that we support our people through a process that I know has a very real impact on people’s careers and livelihoods. I don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be for the whole team.
In the long term we need to – and will – win more eyes and more engagement; give audiences the content they want in the format they want it; and make sure our journalism gets the attention it deserves.
Chief Digital Publisher