Northcliffe Media managing director Steve Auckland has sent a memo to his staff announcing that he believes “print will be around for a long time to come,” Press Gazette reported today. Auckland says that he expects print to continue to be the “main port of call” for most readers of news in the future.
Northcliffe Media, a division of Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) is one of the UK’s largest publishing groups, circulating 113 newspapers across the UK and Central and Eastern Europe. They have 5.8 million readers in the UK and their titles include the Bath Times, the Essex Chronicle, the Leicester Mercury and the Bristol Post.
The publishing group – and indeed print media as a whole – has experienced a challenging year, with closures and staff cutbacks. Since Auckland’s arrival in March 2011, however, Northcliffe returned to profit growth for the first time since the recession.
In the memo Auckland outlines his belief that “local and community spirit will grow even quicker in the next few years as the economy climbs out of recession.” He anticipates “a rise in the ‘grey’ market, resurgence of Britishness and renewed spirit in communities”, which will bring attention back to the importance of local news.
DMGT brought Auckland in to turn around their ailing regional newspaper operation. Auckland was previously the managing director of Metro, which was making profits of more than £20m in 2011.
In May, Northcliffe revealed a 34 per cent increase in operating profit from £8m to £11m, despite revenue falling by 10 per cent to £107m.
Staff numbers have been cut by six per cent and four of its daily titles have turned to weeklies, leading to a 13 per cent reduction in publishing costs.
Auckland says he hopes to focus on quality and economical content. “We expect editors to review everything that is in their titles, to assess it’s worth and concentrate on the content that readers really want.”
The changes, he says, offer Northcliffe Media a “brighter future,” but last week he refused to rule out the possibility that the publisher could still be sold.