New Monty memo: 'We have people, vision and finance to lead regional media into bright future'

Local World chief executive David Montgomery has said the group is leading the industry in terms of digital audience growth and has ambitions to stem print circulation decline.
 
He wrote to all staff yesterday to update them on plans for the group which was created just under a year ago out of the merger of the Northcliffe and Iliiffe newspaper groups.
 
Last week a leaked management memo from Montgomery spoke of a high reliance on user-generated content and small office-based staffs putting together heavily templated newspapers.
 
This upated document, with a wider circulation, uses more straight-forward language to set out Montgomery's plan to grow the business next year. Local World is the UK's third biggest regional newspaper group with around 100 newspaper titles.
 
Montgomery said: "Our strategy is to create a fully digitised transactional business that engages with our readers, customers and commercial partners every minute of every day."
 
In the note he pays triibute to the hard work of Local World's "talented staff" and pledges to give them the training and support in 2014 to complete the planned 'transformation' of the business.
 
Here is his new memo to all staff in full: 
 
By way of an update I wanted to communicate personally with you regarding progress at Local World.
 
As I have mentioned many times, privately and publicly, the very essence of our business is content – local content. It drives our commercial activity and so our newspapers, our websites and our content must take pride of place in Local World’s agenda.
 
For many years the content side of the business was under-developed and under-invested. In 2013 this changed fundamentally and permanently when Local World was created as a pure content and commerce business, separated from the constraints of the industrial past. This strategy is already working.
 
We are leading the industry in terms of digital audience growth and your content is now seen by millions more people the length and breadth of our communities.  Our priority is also to make our newspapers successful; to stem the circulation erosion that has been accepted as inevitable in the industry for far too long.
 
This united print and online publishing approach is led by our newspapers and their content departments, supported by a skilled development team. The recent launch of our websites under their historic title brands is a first step in a relentless drive to restore our titles, in print and online, to prominence as the leading local providers of content. Editors who have spent time in London over the last few weeks will know how much value Local World places on our journalists as content lies at the heart of our ambitious plans for our business.
 
We have set out our stall during 2013.
 
We are addressing the serious deficits in technology and structure that have held back the modernisation of our business. Our strategy is to create a fully digitised transactional business that engages with our readers, customers and commercial partners every minute of every day.
 
Next year we will enable modern working, releasing to the full the talent and energy we have in the business.
 
  • First, we will introduce IT changes to enable journalists to be masters of their content.  This will drive a huge enrichment of what we offer our readers and also enhance the scope of the individual journalist’s role.
     
  • Second, Local World will invest in sales systems and transactional platforms that give our sales executives the ability to interact and transact with a much greater volume of businesses.
     
  • And third, to glue all of this together, Local World will enable all content and commerce staff to access segmented audience data that will inform their decisions to better target content and advertising as well as attract and retain readers and customers.
Creating a launch pad for these initiatives has not been achieved through happenstance. There has been a concentrated effort in 2013 to identify the challenges, build financial stability, strengthen the operating structure and equip management with the capacity to reform our business through considered investment.
 
Throughout, we have been supported by many talented staff in Local World and I thank you for your commitment.
 
In return Local World will provide you with the tools and training during 2014 to facilitate our transformation to a modern content and commerce company. Our new operating model will have the capability of regular product launches, creating career opportunities for our people and quality products for our customers. Key to this is leveraging technology to make Local World competitive in content and commerce.
 
Our intention is to build systems which remove the need for unnecessary administration.  These will enable a more efficient means of gathering content, allowing our journalists to focus their skills on originating, creating and managing content in a creative manner. Print production tasks will be able to be completed quickly and simply, using new automated technology.
 
Self-serve systems will also transform our capacity to deliver commercial sales and free up our sales people from manual processing of low value transactions to focus energy on premium advertising and sales activity.  Every other transactional business is doing this and what is more every one of us is engaging with these modernised processes when we book a flight, buy a train ticket or purchase goods and services via a screen.
 
The newspaper industry has remained immune from these changes because the designers of IT systems for both content and sales have been instructed to create processes that merely replicate old practices rather than transform them. The result is an industry that has fallen out of step with our consumers and with businesses.
 
There is still a lot of work to be done to adapt to the new realities of the media landscape but I believe we have the people, the vision and the financial capability to lead our company into a bright and sustainable future for regional media.
 
Best wishes
 
David

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