Johnston Press identifies 59 'sub-core' titles, including Wigan Evening Post and Scotland on Sunday

Johnston Press has identified 59 titles it considers to be "sub-core" after revealing it is looking to sell some of its brands.

In an email to staff, seen by Press Gazette, staff were informed which newspapers are considered of "uber" importance, "primary", "core" and "sub- core".

On the "sub-core" group, which includes the daily Wigan Evening Post and Scotland on Sunday, the email said: "This group makes up a third of our news brands and delivers very low levels of contribution, some brands in this group do not break even. 

"We intend to review these first and will look to establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return from this group. 

"It is critical that our resources are used to the maximum effect and we will be working speedily to establish an effective publishing model for these brands."

These are titles Johnston Press intends to review first and will be looking to "establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return from this group".  Being categorised as "sub-core" does not automatically mean a title is up for sale, the regional newspaper publisher said.

Of "uber" importance are eight titles: the Yorkshire Post, The Scotsman, Yorkshire Evening Post, Edinburgh Evening News, Portsmouth News, Lancashire Evening Post, The Star (Sheffield) and the News Letter in Northern Ireland. Among the "sub-core" titles are the daily Wigan Evening Post and Scotland on Sunday.

The email was sent after the company revealed yesterday that "a number of brands have been identified that are not part of its long-term future" and a "process has been initiated to explore the sale of these assets".

The email said the "media reaction has greatly exaggerated our intentions around this".

Staff were told the senior leadership team had met last week to discuss "how we are segmenting and managing our portfolio this year and what that means in practice. This includes how we could, theoretically, arrive at a small number of sale decisions in order to re-invest the proceeds in our primary markets, or to further pay down our debt."

The company's strategy this year is based on "three key factors that we believe will set Johnston Press up for growth overall", which brands have been assessed against and grouped accordingly.

The three factors are:

1. Advertisers & Products: focusing our commercial offer around fewer, better, commercial products which are most attractive to our customers, and serving our higher-yielding customers ever better to ensure we get our LDFE business back to growth, mirroring our national advertising success. 

2. Geographies: focusing our investments on our primary brands which are in markets where the economics show there is most potential for growth, or where their financial contribution is strong.

3. Audiences: focusing our efforts to attract more commercially valuable, multi-platform audience groups, which we’ve described as “Flourishing Families” and “Mid-lifers”. These are the groups with the disposable income, who value what we do, value our brands and are attractive for our advertisers to reach.

Staff were told: "Each grouping [uber, primary, core and sub-core] makes a different, but equally important, contribution to Johnston Press, and we believe that different strategies are needed for each group in order to set that group of brands up to be successful and improve their contribution.

"To be crystal clear: if we do decide to undertake a small number of asset sales, the four groupings of Uber, Primary, Core and Sub-Core have no bearing on those decisions. We would not, for example, ever look to sell a whole category."

The "primary" group is made up of 23 weekly titles: the Banbury Guardian, Bucks & Winslow Advertiser, Bucks Herald, Bury Free Press, Derbyshire Times, Falkirk Herald, Grantham Journal, Harborough Mail, Hastings Observer, Lancaster Guardian, Leamington Courier, Melton Times, MK Citizen, Northampton Chron & Echo, Northants Telegraph, Chichester Observer Series, Peterborough Telegraph, Sheffield Telegraph, Stamford Mercury, Worthing Herald (Inc Littehampton Gazette), Sussex County Times, Brighton & Hove Independent and the Harrogate Advertiser Series.

The email said the primary group will "benefit from having a more consistently executed audience and commercial strategy".

The core group has 74 titles in it: the Blackpool Gazette, Hartlepool Mail, Shields Gazette, Sunderland Echo, Bedfordshire Times & Citizen, Biggleswade Chronicle, Bucks Ad & Thame Gazette, Carluke & Lanark Gazette, Clitheroe Adv & Times, Cumbernauld News, Daventry Express, Fife Free Press, Fife Herald, Garstang Courier, Hemel Gazette, Kirkintillloch Herald, Leighton Buzzard Observer, Luton News & Dunstable Gaz, Lytham St Annes Express, Matlock Mercury, Milngavie & Bearsden Herald, Motherwell Times, Newmarket Journal, Rugby Advertiser, Suffolk Free Press, Sussex Express Series, Wigan Observer, Larne Times, Mid Sussex Weekend Herald, Portadown Times, Ashfield Chad, Berwickshire News, Boston Standard, Bridlington Free Press, Burnley Express, Buxton Advertiser, Chorley Guardian, Derry Journal, Dewsbury Reporter (inc Batley News), Doncaster Free Press, Driffield Times & Post, Eastbourne Herald, Fenland Citizen, Gainsborough Standard, Halifax Courier, Ilkeston Advertiser, Lincolnshire Free Press, Luton Herald & Post, Lynn News, Mansfield Chad, Mid Sussex, Times, Nelson Leader, News Guardian, News Post Leader, Northumberland Gazette, Pontefract & Cas Express, Ripley & Heanor News, Scarborough News, Skegness Series, Sleaford Standard, Southern Reporter, Spalding Guardian, Stornoway Gazette, Wakefield Express, Whitby Gazette Friday, Wigan Reporter, Worksop Guardian, Lurgan Mail, Mid-Ulster Mail, Trials & Motorcross News, Ulster Star, IoM Courier, IoM Examiner and the Manx Independent.

It said: "These brands make a significant contribution and are important brands which sit right at the heart of Johnston Press. We will manage this group to achieve a high degree of best practice driven by a balanced and consistent approach.

"Specifically we will look to organise our newsrooms to deliver the appropriate mix of content across these ‘core’ titles."

The email said: "We have a number of smaller brands which need simple solutions to ensure they serve their communities effectively and profitably. Internally, we are calling this group 'Sub-Core'."

This group is made up of: the Diss Express, East Fife Mail, Galloway Gazette, Glasgow Sth & Eastwood Extra, Hemel Hempstead Express, Midlothian Advertiser, Rutland Times, Alfreton Chad, Arbroath Herald, Belper News, Beverley Guardian, Bourne Local, Brighouse Echo, Buchan Observer, Carrick Gazette, Crawley Observer, Deeside Piper, Eastbourne Gazette, Eastwood Advertiser, Ellon Times, Epworth Bells, Fleetwood Weekly News, Fraserburgh Herald, Glenrothes Gazette, Haverhill Echo, Hawick News, Hemsworth & S Elmsall Exp, Hucknall Dispatch, Linlithgow Gazette, Malton & Pickering Mercury, Mearns Leader, Morley Observer & Advertiser, Morpeth Herald, North Yorkshire News, Pocklington Post, Retford Trader & Guardian, Selkirk Weekend Advertiser, South Yorkshire Times, The Buteman, Todmorden News (inc Hebden Bridge News), Visitor, Wharfe Valley Times, Wigan Evening Post (Daily), Image Northampton, Ballymena Times, Ballymoney Times, Banbridge Leader, Belfast Vibe, Hayling Islander, Londonderry Sentinel, Portsmouth View, Scotland on Sunday, Tyrone Times, West Sussex Gazette, Worthing Advertiser, Dirt Bike Rider, South Etc, ACP Weekly (Brechin, Forfar & Montrose) and the Weekend Herald.

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