The future of the New Day newspaper will be considered “very carefully” if it's not profitable by 2017, Trinity Mirror's chief executive has said.
Speaking to City A.M., Simon Fox also suggested there will be further consolidation in the newspaper industry in the coming years.
Fox said New Day, launched today by the company, is aimed at people who have “fallen out of love” with newspapers and will not be aiming to take readers away from other titles.
The title, which was free today but is aiming for a cover price of 50p and a paid-for circulation of 200,000.
The newspaper, he said, will not tell people what to think, will have no party political bias and will aim to make people feel “better about the world”.
He said Trinity Mirror’s aim is to persuade people that “spending 50p for an experience would be something they enjoy doing and [reading] it would be 30 minutes well spent”.
Fox added: "So that’s the challenge we’ve taken up with New Day and ultimately time will tell whether we have been successful and we’ve met a demand from those people for such a product.”
With no classified advertising and eight fixed advertising slots in the 40-page title, Fox said success will be measured by the number of paid-for readers New Day can attract.
He said: “We’ll watch that carefully over the next six months. We’ve said clearly if we’ve got it wrong – and there isn’t a demand for this paper – then we’re a commercial organisation, we’re very commercially disciplined, and if there isn’t such a demand we’ll either have to radically change it in some way or not continue with it.”
Asked if this decision would be taken in six months, Fox said: “The end of a calendar year. We’ve made it clear… that were it to be losing money going into 2017 we’d have to consider its future very carefully.”
The launch of New Day comes shortly before The Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers are due to be closed. Their sister title, the i, has been acquired by regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press. And in one of the big media deals of last year, Trinity Mirror acquired rival local newspaper publisher Local World.
Asked if he expected more acquisitions and consolidations in the media market to come, Fox said: “In a declining market I think consolidation of that market tends to be what happens. So I would imagine that there will be industry consolidation. It’s possibly more likely in regionals than nationals, but it could be in either place.
"Having acquired Local World, [Trinity Mirror has] made it clear that we would like to be a consolidator in this market. And we still have balance sheet flexibility to do that – our leverage is still less than one times despite the Local World acquisition, so we still do have financial flexibility.
"Clearly I have no idea precisely what will happen, but I imagine that this is a market that will consolidate over the coming years.”
In March last year, Trinity Mirror confirmed it was in talks to buy some of Richard Desmond’s Express Newspapers titles.
However, at the end of last year, Desmond ruled out a deal, saying: "I have my own plans for the future of [Express publisher] Northern and Shell, I have the resources to invest and the determination to expand and grow right across the group. Under the circumstances I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off."
Asked, therefore, if a deal with Express Newspapers was off the table now, Fox said: “I think Richard Desmond has made the position very clear and nothing has changed since then."