Mirror Group titles to beat NI to full colour

By Dominic Ponsford

Mirror Group Newspapers looks set to beat arch rival News
International in the race to full-colour printing with an £83m
investment announced this week.

The move means the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record, Sunday
Mail and People will be printed in full colour by 2008. According to a
Trinity Mirror spokesman, “this puts us ahead of our nearest rivals at
a fraction of the cost”.

As a knock-on effect, the Independent
titles should also be available in full colour as they are printed on a
contract basis by Trinity Mirror.

News International revealed in
October it was to spend £600m on new print sites as part of a five-year
plan to produce all its papers in full colour.

Colour printing
has become a commercial necessity for newspapers because of the
increased advertising revenue it brings in. Only the Financial Times
and Express Newspapers have yet to announce investment in new presses.

Mirror’s re-pressing news came as it announced operating profit up 11.2
per cent to £128.3m on a turnover up 1.2 per cent to £579.3m for the
first six months of the year.

The group reported a downturn in
the advertising market, which it said was affecting all its titles and
looked set to worsen as the year goes on.

The profit boost was
achieved mainly through continuing cutbacks across the group, which are
on course to save the company £35m this year.

The regional
newspapers division continues to be Trinity Mirror’s main cash cow,
with operating profit of £78.8m on turnover of £277.3m.

Operating profit margin for the regional newspapers increased by 1.1 per cent to 28.4 per cent.

The regionals division showed a £900,000 profit on its internet activities, compared with losses of £200,000 a year ago.

Trinity Mirror boosted circulation revenue at its regional titles with a series of “little and often” price rises. But sales have dropped across the group’s 250 local papers.

Morning titles fell by 0.9 per cent on average, evenings fell 4.6 per cent yearon- year and Sundays fell 5.5 per cent. Circulation of the company’s weeklies fell by 3.6 per cent on average.

Circulation for the company’s flagship title, the Daily Mirror, fell 7.7 per cent year-on-year during the period. The
rate of circulation decline slowed in May and June, which the company
said “reflects the benefits of a more consistent publishing mix and the
passing of the anniversary of the fake Iraqi prisoner abuse pictures
published in May 2004”.

The advertising market for the nationals was described as “unpredictable and volatile”.

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