Newsquest in Scotland: How much profit is enough?

Nothing like the threat of strike action to set the pulse racing. Especially in Glasgow.

In Scotland’s interesting metropolis, they’re breathing fire over Newsquest’s proposal to cut 40 jobs at the Glasgow Evening Times, the Herald and Sunday Herald.

There’s talk of “disastrous impact”, and an allegation that Gannett-owned Newsquest is “squeezing the very life out of some of Scotland’s most famous titles”.

Why? In order to line the “pockets of US shareholders”, of course.

Unfortunately, many of those “US shareholders” are public sector workers in places like California and Idaho. Their meagre pension funds just happen to be invested in companies like Gannett.

But that’s hardly relevant.

Instead, we’re struck by NUJ president James Doherty’s suggestion that the Herald has cut its editorial staff from 186 to 113 during the past five years.

That’s “despite the Glasgow papers making Newsquest £17.1m” during the same period.

Now these sound like intriguing numbers — all the more so because parent company Gannett’s accounts tell us very little about the performance of the company’s UK papers.

(What we do know, from Gannett’s most recent quarterly filing, is that sterling-denominated ad revenues at the company’s sprawling UK operations fell by 7%, with publishing revenues down by 6%. Whether the Herald or Insurance Times or someone else is to blame for this is a moot point, but the Q1 YOY declines in newspaper-related classified ads at Newsquest do look particularly nasty. Try a 21% YOY decline in revenue from car ads, and a 14% decline in property ads — a lot worse than Trinity Mirror’s Q1 regional results).

So Mr. Doherty, if you’ve got further and better particulars, we’d be delighted to hear them.

Is Newsquest supporting its beleaguered US business by cutting costs out of successful Scottish newspapers? Or are the cuts really a response to declining indigenous profitability?

Let’s not be bashful: we think we should told.

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