Trinity Mirror's proposed cut-price national launch is payback for Desmond's price-cutting tactics

 
By all accounts market conditions in the UK national newspaper market are atrocious at present.
 
Guardian News and Media is looking to cut £54m from its costs to curb its losses, the Telegraph is conducting a strategic review ahead of a possible sale or more cuts and The Independent has finally thrown in the towel.
 
So why is Trinity Mirror planning the launch of a new national daily? How can splitting the diminishing pot of UK national newspaper circulation and sales revenue yet further help anyone?

The answer, in my view, lies in the latest newspaper sales figures and the brewing personal animosity between Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond and Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox.
 
Trinity Mirror investigated acquiring some of Desmond's titles last year only to break off negotiations because, as I understand it, they found him impossible to deal with. Remember this is the man who once taunted Telegraph executives with sieg heil salutes at a meeting of their joint venture printing operation Westferry and called one of them a "miserable piece of shit".
 
Desmond signalled that negotiatons were at an end when the Express reported in December that he was “irritated by what he sees at the Mirror Group’s using his name and prolonging the idea of a deal perhaps as a cheap means of shoring up their share price”.
 
He concluded: "I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off."
 
Desmond's decision to cut the weekday price of the Daily Star to 20p happened in October and may well have been a ploy to strengthen his hand in those negotiations with Trinity Mirror.
 
The price war is damaging the Daily Mirror which now costs three times more than the Daily Star. Last month it fell 12.3 per cent year on year while the Star rose 10.6 per cent. The 40p Sun fell 9.7 per cent.
 
The Mirror's plan to launch a new 20p title should be seen in that context. One proposed name is said to be New Day. But I would not be surprised if they went for something like Espresso and sought to counter Desmond's price war tactics with a cut-price attack on the middle market and the Express.
 
My hunch is that if Desmond raises the Daily Star price in the next couple of weeks, the new Trinity Mirror daily will be shelved.
 
If he doesn't, things are about to get very interesting.
 
The big question is where will the Mirror's new title get its content from? If it cannibalises too much material from the Mirror it will just add the woes of the flagship by taking its readers.
 
A more likely strategy is that it takes content from Trinity Mirror's vast network of regional titles. Following the acquisition of Local World, Trinity Mirror has more journalists on the ground than any other newspaper publisher and perhaps a smart repackaging of their content for a national audience could be possible.

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