Editors will 'retain flexibility to have pages designed from scratch'
Liverpool Echo features editor Jane Haase named as head of Shared Content Unit
New community content focus under the banner 'Content Direct'
Staff told: 'Pursuing a print-only or even print-led agenda is not sustainable'
NUJ calls for extension of 30-day consultation
Staff were told the new templates would be introduced across every one of Trinity’s 130-plus portfolio – which includes the Western Mail, Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News – in order to “allow our local teams to focus on content creation".
A Trinity spokesman told Press Gazette: “We have created a set of five fresh, modern designs – one for each type of newspaper we publish that have strong reader appeal.
“Each type of title will have its own look – for example, the three Sunday titles [the Sunday Sun, Sunday Mercury and Wales on Sunday] will share the same, high-quality design.”
The spokesman added that the new framework will still allow editors to “retain the flexibility to have key pages designed from scratch, where they feel it’s necessary”.
Trinity's latest move mirrors a similar initiative introduced by regional rival Johnston Press in May 2012, when it too began to roll out five templates across all of its 170 local newspapers.
An editorial announcement sent to staff outlines “significant changes” in how the regional newspapers will operate in future.
Key to the new operation is a “Shared Content Unit” based in Liverpool that will provide features content to Trinity’s papers across the UK.
The new unit will be led by Jane Haase, the former features editor of the Liverpool Echo, who will manage a team of six. Her former deputy at the Echo, Emma Johnson, is the new deputy head of the Shared Content Unit.
The team will produce material across the regional portfolio in print and online including travel, fashion, food, films, books and “other content areas that do not require a wholly local flavour”.
“Producing non-local content centrally will enable each of our newsrooms to focus on the two things that really drive newspaper sales and web traffic – local news and sport,” staff were told.
Another crucial part of the new publishing operation is a much greater focus on community content under the banner “Content Direct”.
Staff were told: “Over the past two to three years, we have seen a strong growth in the volume of community-produced content we publish, and there has been a great deal of positive reader feedback.
“We have also seen evidence of improved newspaper sales performance among titles that have embraced community content. We now plan to capitalise on this further.”
Content Direct will include “detailed articles commissioned from local experts through to grassroots pictures and information from clubs, societies and individuals”.
In each newsroom a senior editorial manager will take overall responsibility for the implementation of Content Direct, and the scheme will also see the introduction of new “community content curation” roles in the newsroom.
These are described as non-journalist positions that will “free up journalists to create and develop high-quality packages for digital and for print”.
The new workflow is aimed at turning Trinity into a “fully fledged digitally-focused business”.
Outlining the new operation, the memo continued: “In particular, fresh material will be targeted at the three main traffic spikes – at breakfast-time, lunchtime and late afternoon – and we will expand our regular, audience-driving features such as appointment-to-view football video.
“Reporters will follow stories through the day, adding new content and using social media tools to engage with the audience and enhance our coverage.
“As the day progresses, digital activity will continue but the focus will move towards print, with the newspaper crafted around a number of key content packages.”
Last week Trinity announced that 92 editorial jobs were being cut from Trinity's regional titles in England and Wales and that 52 new jobs were being created, split between the national and regional titles.
It means a net reduction of 66 regional press journalists and an increase of 26 jobs at national level.
Trinity said it hoped to deploy as many affected staff into the new positions that were being created.
But staff were warned: “The digital revolution continues at pace. While print is still very important to us – and will remain so for many years – pursuing a print-only or even print-led agenda is not sustainable, as our traditional audience and revenues will continue to crumble.
“The recession currently affecting the media industry is by far the most severe in living memory. We have to respond by reducing our costs in a realistic and sensible way.
“This is a bold plan that confronts the challenges facing our industry and will help to set us up for a successful future.”
According to the National Union of Journalists a number of union chapels within Trinity have already said they will take industrial action if there are compulsory redundancies.
The NUJ is now asking that management extend the legal-minimum consultation time of 30 days.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “Our reps have flagged up major concerns which the company must address if we are to make progress in dealing with a highly disruptive strategic change by the group. The company must take its workforce with it, and the best way to do that is to fully engage with the NUJ as the recognised trade union in each of the centres affected.
"But it must be more than just local talks because these cannot be properly effective as the major decisions are being taken from Canary Wharf and the implementation is being directed to take place simultaneously at multi-sites. The bottom line for our members is that no one must be forced out of work and our reps have indicated that their chapels are prepared to defend that principle."
A Trinity spokesperson said: "The NUJ has raised these points with us in an email and we'll be replying to it privately."