Thirty jobs are at risk after a major Irish news publisher outlined a three-year strategic plan aimed at growing digital revenues and working towards a sustainable business model.
Independent News and Media, which publishes the Belfast Telegraph, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, The Herald, Sunday World and Sunday Life newspapers, as well as 13 weekly regional titles, briefed staff on the “INM@21” strategy yesterday.
The company expects 30 editorial and commercial jobs will be lost under the plan, which will see an investment of around €5m (£4.4m) in upgrading INM’s IT and digital capabilities.
The National Union of Journalists said it understands up to 23 editorial roles and eight non-editorial roles are being targeted for redundancy.
A 30-day consultation with affected staff is underway.
In a briefing to staff, shared by the Irish Independent, chief executive Michael Doorly said the company needed to optimise revenues, reduce costs and better respond to changing audience needs.
“The key challenges are declining circulation volumes and contracting advertising revenues, which is reflected in INM’s own performance,” he said.
“The major opportunity which we need to take is in increased digital revenues.
“While INM continues to be profitable, we recognise that the existing business model is not sustainable over the medium term and we need, as a matter of urgency, to stabilise and grow our business.
“In order to do that, we need to put our customers at the heart of everything we do. We have seen a marked shift in consumer behaviour from newspaper to mobile consumption of news and content and INM must adapt accordingly.”
In the first half of 2018, INM reported a profit before tax of €11.5m, down 22.8 per cent year-on-year, on revenues of €95m, down 4.1 per cent.
Group-wide digital revenues fell by 2.9 per cent year-on-year over the same period as INM blamed the “ongoing revenue pressures arising from Google and Facebook in the market”.
But it said the decline was partially offset by its investment in diversified offerings such as used cars sale website Cars Ireland.
Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary at the National Union of Journalists, said: “This is the latest in a series of cuts at Independent News and Media. There have already been drastic cuts within editorial departments and it is difficult to conceive of further reductions in staffing levels.
“NUJ members are concerned that the proposed cuts will undermine the ability of staff to do their job. Persistent reduction in staffing levels can only have a detrimental effect on the quality of editorial output.”
In September inspectors at Ireland’s corporate watchdog, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, were appointed by Ireland’s High Court to look into a range of allegedly unlawful behaviour at INM.
This included the “unlawful sharing of the company’s inside information with third parties outside of the company as well as unlawful sharing of the company’s confidential information”, the ODCE has alleged.
Dooley said the fresh job cuts “must be seen against the devastating impact of these of recent revelations about unacceptable behaviour at the highest level within INM and corporate shenanigans which have not served the company or its employees well”.
He added: “Staff who have worked hard over many years should not have to pay the cost of recent disastrous decisions at corporate level.”
Dooley said INM has indicated it will continue to negotiate with the NUJ and engage with the union on the proposals.