Trinity Mirror’s New Day newspaper – launched this year and closed after less than three months – failed because consumers did not want what they said they wanted, according to the publisher’s chief executive.
Asked why the daily title did not succeed, Simon Fox told City A.M.: “I think because, at the end of the day, what consumers told us they would do, and what they actually did, were different things.
“And we couldn’t persuade enough people to try the product and make it part of their daily routine.”
Launched at the end of February following market research on what readers might want, New Day set out to be a positive, politically neutral newspaper. It was closed at the beginning of May.
Asked if he would now expect Trinity Mirror, or any publisher, to launch a new daily national newspaper, Fox said: “I wouldn’t think so.”
Profits soar after Local World acquisition
Despite the failure of New Day, Trinity Mirror today reported a leap in profit and revenue in the first half of 2016, in part thanks to the acquisition of fellow regional newspaper group Local World last year.
Revenue increased from £288.5m in the first half of 2015 to £374.7m, while pre-tax profit was up from £47m to £66.9m, on an adjusted basis.
Shares, down from more than 118p before the EU referendum, were up six per cent to 80p on Monday morning, shortly before midday.
As part of the Local World tie-up, Trinity Mirror is on-track to make £12m of synergy savings by the end of the year.
Asked whether there would be more cuts to follow, or whether Trinity Mirror will have reached a peak efficiency, Fox said: “Nothing is ever as efficient as it can be. We have to run a financially disciplined organisation. And if volumes decrease, then we’ll continue to look for efficiencies – as any organisation would.”
“If we don’t have an audience, we don’t have a business”
The company faced a barrage of criticism from journalists at the end of last week, after a reporter on the Croydon Advertiser – which was owned by Local World and is now being run by Trinity Mirror – who took voluntary redundancy said his newspaper was being “destroyed” by cuts and a push towards “listicle” content and “clickbait” to generate online traffic.
The reporter, Gareth Davies, said: “A paper with a proud 147-year history reduced to being a thrown together collection of clickbait written for the web.”
Fox dismissed the criticism as “unfounded” and “nonsense”.
He said: “We love regional journalism. If we don’t have an audience, we don’t have a business. And any suggestions that somehow we don’t love quality content is just a nonsense.”
Any form of journalism, but particularly regional journalism, has to be read, and has to be of interest to readers. And that’s what we are trying to do, to make sure that the coverage and the reporting is read.
And somehow suggesting, as he has, that we won’t cover anything that has less than 1,000 page views, or 1,000 users, that is simply not true. But equally, frankly, we do obviously – in order to have impact, in order to have resonance, in order to have relevance to the local community – we have to be relevant and noisy in that community.
And if stories aren’t read, then that is a problem. I think that what he’s saying is simply misleading. And to suggest somehow that the newspaper is any less loved is also entirely misleading.
The entire newspaper industry has been plagued by declining advertising revenue in recent years, with 2016 said to have been particularly difficult.
Despite reporting an uplift in advertising revenue in June – boosted by Euro 2016 and the EU referendum, which drew in extra readers – turnover was down nine per cent year-on-year in July.
And Fox is expecting a difficult period over the next six to 12 months.
He said: “We do look at the rest of the year with caution around the advertising outlook.”