Industry's chance to own Press Gazette

A radical new ownership structure for Press Gazette, in which the industry itself owns the title in the form of a Trust, is being proposed by the magazine.

The proposal, which is being outlined to some of the industry's biggest publishers and broadcasters this week, centres on the establishment of the Press Gazette Trust, a body that would exist to publish the title and run its associated activities as an effective, profitable enterprise, while allowing it to remain independent of individual or proprietorial interference.

Trustees would be drawn from the major publishers of national newspapers, regional newspapers, consumer magazines, business-to-business magazines, customer magazines, news broadcasters and other organisations with an interest in journalism.

Once established, the Trust would appoint a management team who would be responsible for the running of the business. It would also appoint the title's editor, but would have no involvement in the day-to-day editorial process.

Founding trustees would each provide a modest stake to fund the business for the first year, but would receive in return a discount entitlement for various Press Gazette services — including display and recruitment advertising and awards entry fees.

The plan suggests that a greater "buy-in" from the big players would in turn help the title's commercial viability as advertising volumes increase, making it more attractive to both readers and advertisers alike. A business plan is being drawn up, in which the magazine aims to become profitable in year three.

The establishment of the Press Gazette Trust should also help solve the current impasse over the British Press Awards, which were boycotted last year by some titles who were unhappy with the magazine's current ownership. Some parts of the industry have also previously objected to the awards becoming too commercialised.

Proposals for the establishment of the Trust have this week been sent to around 40 of the industry's biggest employers — as well as some other organisations that have an interest in the title's future. The more companies that back the plan, the less seed funding will be required from each of them.

After initial soundings of some influential figures, early indications are that the plan could win the widespread support that it needs.

Existing owners Matthew Freud and Piers Morgan have both indicated they would back any solution that protects the title and its employees — and that the establishment of the Trust would be a preferable solution for them.

After buying the title from Quantum Business Media last year, they have made significant investments to help improve the magazine. However, their ownership proved controversial to some, which is why they want to find an exit.

Editor Ian Reeves, who has drawn up the proposal for the Press Gazette Trust, said: "It makes perfect sense for an industry that employs so many creatively and commercially brilliant minds to have some stake in the running of its own trade title. Its editorial independence must obviously remain sacrosanct — its readers, who are the most important people in all of this, would not accept anything less — but this could be a huge step in guaranteeing that journalism in this country has a magazine to be proud of. Anyone interested in being part of the Press Gazette Trust should contact me."

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