'Further substantial cuts' planned at Northcliffe titles

Regional newspaper publisher Northcliffe has warned of further job cuts, closures or changes to newspaper frequencies after it posted a 40 per cent year-on-year decline in January advertising revenues.

Daily Mail and General Trust finance director Peter Williams said this morning that further redundancies, on top of the 400 announced across DMGT in November, were being considered.

“The only thing we can say is we are certainly in consultation in a number of places, mainly in our regional newspapers. We can’t say any more about that,” he told journalists in a conference call.

“There are further reductions being contemplated in the New Year. I’m afraid a lot depends on the trading environment. We’re inevitably looking at our cost base.”

Willams declined to comment on whether DMGT had set a target for the cuts.

“I think it’s totally inappropriate,” he added. “We’re not in a position to say that. We have to talk to our employees first.”

In a trading update this morning, DMGT said its UK headcount fell by six per cent in the last three months of 2008.

Northcliffe Media posted an 18 per cent decline in revenues in the quarter to £86m.

UK advertising revenues fell 27 per cent, with recruitment down 37 per cent and property falling 52 per cent.

The trend continued into January, which was down 40 per cent on the same month in 2008.

“Northcliffe continues to reduce costs significantly, including the implementation of a new regional operating structure,” the group said.

“As a result, UK publishing costs were 10 per cent lower in the quarter than last year, with lower printing, staff, distribution and promotional costs.

“Further substantial reductions are being made beyond those planned in November.”

DMGT chief executive Martin Morgan said mergers or closures had not been ruled at Northcliffe, but a “wholesale reduction” in the number of titles it owns was not on the agenda.

He added: “This is an area of the business where we are having to carefully consider the publishing programme and it’s possible there will be more changes either to frequency, format or potentially mergers or the odd closure.”

Northcliffe recorded a six per cent year-on-year rise in digital revenues in the last quarter of 2008.

Its network of “thisis” websites claimed a 67 per cent year-on-year increase in December unique visitors.

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