Trinity Mirror chief executive says digital development of titles is 'absolute priority', but says no 'immediate plans' for more print closures

Trinity Mirror’s chief executive described digital development as the publisher’s “absolute priority” today as it launches a new national newspaper app.

Speaking at a media briefing this morning, Simon Fox said there are no "immediate plans" to close any more regional newspapers, with 18 having gone in the last six months.

He said that two stand-alone online titles – in Reading and Belfast – were "doing very well", adding: "So far, we're quite optimistic."

GetReading.co.uk is now the publisher's only title in Berkshire, following the closure last year of the Reading Post, Get Reading and Wokingham and Bracknell Times. Trinity Mirror did not publish a print title in Belfast when BelfastLive.co.uk was launched in February. 

Across Trinity Mirror's network of national and regional websites it recorded 5,338,911 daily unique users in March, up from 55 per cent year on year. Fox also claimed that the Mirror's national website grew by 41 per cent year on year to March, recording a larger growth than Mail Online (26 per cent), The Guardian's website (25 per cent) and the Telegraph's (19 per cent).

Fox said: “We don’t have a paywall – we don’t have any intentions to have a paywall.

“We operate integrated newsrooms – integrated between print and digital and increasingly integrated between our regional and national brands.

“We’ve invested in product development – particularly mobile… and in terms of commercialising that digital audience. We’ve invested [in] and totally changed our commercial team.”

He added: “In terms of editorial, we believe very much in operating integrated editorial, digital and print working together and increasingly becoming indistinguishable.

“We obviously now operate almost 24/7 and we’ve brought a whole new set of new skills into the newsroom – skills like data journalism, social media, video of course, analytics – perhaps almost the  most important, having analytics at the heart of the newsroom.”

Fox said this morning: “Our absolutely priority is growing our existing brands onto digital delivery channels.”

Last week, Trinity Mirror announced that all 14 staff working across Mirror website offshoots Ampp3d, UsvsTh3m and Row Zed, as well as the title’s “social content team”, have been put at risk of redundancy as it scales back on the sites.

On the newly-launched Mirror app, he added: “We haven’t refreshed our apps for a couple of years and today at 5 o’clock you can find a new app in the app store.

“And we’re very proud of it. It gives a much more personalised experience… a much more intuitive, fast, really easy to use. So do try it out. We think the user experience is quite unique, actually.”

Trinity Mirror has closed 18 newspapers in the last six months. Over the same period, the publisher has launched a new weekly for the Greater Manchester area, in place of eight free weeklies in the area, and it launched a new Sunday edition of the Liverpool Echo at the beginning of last year.

Earlier this month it emerged that the first seven to be closed – the Reading Post, Get Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell Times, Surrey Herald, Surrey Times, Woking Informer and Harrow Observer – had a combined revenue of £4.5m in 2014.

Asked by Press Gazette whether these titles were making a profit, and if there were more immediate plans to close other titles, Fox said: “I’m not going to give you a straight answer, but I think you can assume that if a paper is profitable you would probably question why we might wish to close it. And therefore you can draw your own conclusions.

“I mean, we don’t publish profitability by paper but, you know, evidently some of our brands are either, or were, either not profitable at the time or likely to become unprofitable at a relatively near future.

“If a title is highly profitable then we’ll keep it. So that’s why we constantly keep our portfolio under review. There are no immediate plans to close any further titles. But that doesn’t mean we never will.”

Asked by freelance journalist John Reynolds about whether Trinity Mirror was still considering buying Express Newspapers or increasing its stake in regional publisher Local World, Fox said: “The right deals would be attractive to us. But which ones and when is not something I can comment on today.”

Last week Trinity Mirror increased the print cover price of the Daily Mirror to 60p – 20p more than The Sun and the same as the Daily Mail. 

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