Comment: Trinity Mirror take-over of Express titles has been welcomed - but be careful what you wish for

News that Trinity Mirror may buy the Express group of newspapers from Richard ‘banana on a silver tray’ Desmond has been welcomed by many. But we should be careful what we wish for.

It would, of course, mean more centralisation of titles, something most are against when Murdoch or Rothermere do it but, I suspect, less so when it is the Mirror.

If all titles survive, then it would mean – in England at least – the Mirror would own two of the three main redtop dailies, three of the four redtop Sundays, one of the two midmarket tabloids but none of the current crop of broadsheets.

And that’s not counting the Daily Record and Sunday Mail which the Mirror owns in Scotland. It would certainly mean they have a bigger stable of national daily and Sunday papers than Murdoch.

In all likelihood, what agencies and freelances would fear most is the closure of at least one paper – and let’s face it, the Daily Star Sunday would be favourite to go – should the takeover go ahead.

That means one less market for exclusives and more journalists out of work.

It would be nice if the Mirror could do something to boost the Daily and Sunday Express, both in terms of readers and staff.

At the moment you have royal reporters doubling up as political correspondents and a shoestring newsdesk working admirably along with some decent subs.

You half expect the doorman to be the sports editor but then he’d have to bring Desmond his daily banana on a silver tray too.

But the journalists have had few, if any, pay rises over the last decade and need a boost. So too do both the paper’s readers – rumoured to be a retired major in Tonbridge and his spinster cousin in a nursing home somewhere just outside Reigate.

The thing everyone knows about Express readers is that it is a dying readership, literally in many cases. It needs new blood, in the boardroom, the newsroom and among buyers.

The question is – does a new owner make the Daily Express more or less right wing in order to nick readers off the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph?

Obviously the current diet of splashes about the weather, a cure for dementia, Princess Di, Madeleine McCann and immigrants ruining our country is keeping them afloat – but only just.

If it does change tack, let’s hope it boosts pagination with more stories from proper journalists and fewer columns by people who were famous 40 years ago but happen to be friends of the owner.

That is the way to invest in journalism and so most of us who are trying to earn a living from newspapers will hope the takeover goes ahead.

An occasional blog by a NAPA news agency boss who has asked to remain anonymous

Comments

8 thoughts on “Comment: Trinity Mirror take-over of Express titles has been welcomed - but be careful what you wish for”

  1. As a publishing leader of 20 years, the last 17 digital, I think you are being a little naive, and I find my own view of the outcome a little less positive. What advertisers want in terms of targeting will not change. Instead, more revenue will be diverted to the “duopoly” -Facebook and Google – whose persistent logged-in status with users enables them to have users opt into far more than publishers will on a visit-by-visit basis. Google and Facebook will find it far easier than twenty different publishers to get that box ticked – and advertisers will find that there remains on social and from search a large pool of opted-in audience data that the publishers will no longer be able to provide in the volume they used to.

    In addition, publishers will lose remnant, or Open Marketplace revenue; Premium programmatic, the fastest growing revenue source, will be dented as much of that is about the third party data applied rather than the context. Publishers will have mostly just contextual positions to sell against – but do not expect the price to go up, and expect page view volumes to continue to decrease. The rent may hold, but the square footage will decline as the audience continues to move to mobile and social.

    The new transparency promised by DSPs and SSPs is what advertisers want – the ability to use data to target, but have a better view on where those ads are being run. What they don’t want is a drop in the level of targeting.

    One exception is those publishers who operate in specific verticals, be it sport, technology, travel or something else – there, context will do well, but again within a growing trend of decreasing ad views and increasing ad blocking. And already most British publishers do not have particularly large traffic volumes here, and the ones that survive are still on the whole propped up by print.

    Everyone else – the generalists, the national and local press, will suffer as they majority of their advertising is data-driven rather than context-driven. And I reiterate that that way of targeting will not disappear, but rather will be satisfied by the platforms that are much better able to supply it post-GDPR.

    For consumer-facing publishing generally, the need is to move to a more transactional model – affiliate commerce, lead generation – performance marketing in other words.

    Please think very carefully – more carefully – for thinking this legislation is a cause for optimism.

  2. B***ocks. The Mirror titles have been ripping off all freelancers, including most agencies, for years. They pay far less than anyone else, and do everything possible to delay the pittance they do offer.

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