Monthly Archives: May 2010

Two tribes go to war in Cambridge

When two tribes go to war…

The Frankie Goes to Hollywood song was released during the height of the Cold War, and feelings are likely to be equally frosty between two of the country’s bigger newspaper publishers as a newspaper circulation battle hots up in Cambridge.

Previously the heart of Iliffe News and Media territory and home to its flagship Cambridge Evening News, the patch is set to become a battleground after two rival publications launched on the same day.

Norwich-based Archant launched its part-free, part-paid for Cambridge First on Thursday; the same day that Iliffe revealed the new free Cambridge Now.

Archant is marketing its title as a ’21st century weekly newspaper’ which can be accessed across a number of platforms, including  paid-for sales, free pick-up locations, hand-delivery to targeted customers at high footfall points and personal delivery.

According to HoldtheFrontPage, Editorial director Paul Richardson said: “Cambridge is ready for something fresh and new with an open and positive news agenda and this will be it.”  

Iliffe’s answer is a 64-page tabloid described as “a light, bright read with a lively mix of news, pictures and opinion.”

Cambridge Newspapers managing director, Graham Ayres, said: “It’s a lighter, shorter read for those who like a weekly at-a-glance digest of news from Cambridge.”

Source: HoldtheFrontPage

State of Play: New life

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JP digital strategy director quits

The woman responsible for implementing the new Johnston Press website has quit.

According to Roy Greenslade, the company’s digital strategy director Lori Cunningham has stepped down after two years in the job.

Greenslade quotes an internal memo saying she was regarded as “a key part of the team that moved our jobs platform from one developed in-house to a new platform sourced from the Daily Mail group.”

It adds: “She has recently been focusing on the development of a new website template utilising the purchased Polopoly platform. This will replace our existing websites over the coming months.”

Writing on his Media Guardian blog, Greenslade sites the anger of Johnston’s journalists about the new ATEX system and JPs aborted paywall experiments as possible causes of her departure.

But if we were a betting Blog our money would be on the failure of the company to properly implement its new website. Sites launched at Grantham and Peterborough were widely criticised and the planned role out across the group has been put on hold with no new live date in place.

Source: Greenslade

State of Play: John Fry next?

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Council newspapers: serious threat or red herring?

The Newspaper Society and the National Union of Journalists are at loggerheads over the impact of council funded newspapers.
Yesterday the NS wrote to new Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles asking for a meeting about local authority papers and government advertising practices.
In the letter, NS communications director Lynne Anderson wrote: ‘We would like to arrange a meeting with you as soon as possible to brief you on our members’ specific concerns and to discuss the steps the government plans to take, the type of rules, their likely effectiveness and how quickly these will be imposed, to help ensure that this unfair competition, which has been allowed to develop unchecked and continues to cause real damage to independent local newspapers across the country, can be stopped as a matter of urgency.’
She added that the NS hoped councils would be encouraged to use local media rather than undermine it.
The letter came in response to the new coalition government’s pledge to ‘impose together rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers’.
But, responding to the Queen’s Speech, NUJ president Pete Murray called the opposition to council papers, ‘a dogmatic adherence to a false belief’.
He said: “We are concerned about the new government’s lack of clarity on definitions of so called ‘responsible journalism’ and the dogmatic adherence to the false belief that local authority newspapers represent unfair competition.”

State of Play: What do you think? Council newspapers – a serious threat or a red herring?
Love to hear your views.

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JP launch new title

Johnston Press hasn’t been in the business of opening any new publications for some time.
But shocked staff learnt of the company’s latest innovation on Friday.
It consists of a company-wide, internal, electronic newsletter bringing staff all the latest news on… JPs content management system, ATEX.
The much maligned system is one of the major reasons for the on/off strike action in the company.
The new email newsletter, entitled Prestige News, is written by IT network manager David Martin.
An introduction to it says: ‘This newsletter is the first of a regular series aimed at communicating the work going on behind the scenes to improve the performance and reliability of the Atex Prestige system.
‘In it we hope to include news about upcoming system changes and what they mean to you, hints and tips regarding more efficient usage of the system, and any other initiatives that are in the pipeline that are designed to improve the workflow’.

State of Play: A sticking plaster for internal bleeding

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End to ‘unfair’ council newspapers

Council-run newspapers will be the subject of tough new rules, according to the new Con-Lib coalition’s policy document.

The new Government’s stated aim, part of a 34-page policy document, is to stop local authorities using taxpayers money to provide ‘unfair competition’ to independent local newspapers.

The one line pledge reads: “We will impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers.”

Source: HoldtheFrontPage

State of Play: The removal of an unwanted virus can only improve the industry

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Ballot on strike action at Newsquest’s Stourbridge papers

The whiff of unrest is growing.

With Johnston Press journalists set to vote again on industrial action, spurred on by a National Union of Journalists spitting feathers after JP ran to the courts, the threat of strikes has now reared its head within Newsquest.

Ten journalists in Stourbridge are set to ballot over plans to transfer three staff to Worcester, 30 miles away. The NUJ made the announcement on Friday.

Staff believe the decision will lower the quality of those titles produced at the Stourbridge centre; namely the Stourbridge News, Halesowen News, Dudley News, Kidderminster Shuttle, Bromsgrove Advertiser and Redditch Advertiser.

NUJ organiser Chris Morley said: “The loss of experienced senior journalists from this centre would also weaken the support available to more junior staff.

“Cuts have left huge workloads on journalists and the proposals as they stand will make this worse. A reasonable, alternative strategy has been put forward by the union that would avoid the worst effects of the company’s proposals but I am not convinced that management will listen to logical arguments alone.

“Newsquest plans put both journalists and journalism at risk at Stourbridge, and our members have drawn a line in the sand to say it is not acceptable.”

State of Play: Heart attack

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Lies, damned lies and statistics?

Some interesting statistics from the Johnston Press strike action scenario.
Much has been made of the inconsistent number of journalists employed by JP.
On its website The National Union of Journalists has been keen to point out that the ‘group claims in the annual report that it employs 1,900 journalists and more than 7,000 employees’.
This is, of course, in stark contrast to the total of journalists JP told the High Court it employs – none.
The company instead argued the journalists are employed by subsidiaries.
One thing is clear, this squabbling over statistics isn’t going to solve anything: it won’t help JP pay off it’s £400m plus debts, it won’t help those subs who have already lost their jobs get them back, it won’t improve the quality of newspapers and it sure as eggs is eggs won’t make ATEX run any faster.
As Lord Judge said when summing up in his decision to overturn the ban on strike action at British Airways: “Legal processes do not constitute mitigation.
“On the contrary they often serve to inflame rather than molify the feelings of those involved.”
Having said all that there still remain some key points within those statistics.
Firstly, there is no arguement that within the JP organisation, whether employed directly by the company or by it’s subsidiaries, there are around 7,000 staff members, including 1,900 journos.
That means there are – approximately – 5,100 people employed by JP who do not write for the papers.
5,100 compared to 1,900 who do.
Doesn’t that tell us something about the priorities of JP (hint: it’s not producing high quality papers)?
But the Union doesn’t escape unscathed from the use of statistics in this case.
The first vote saw 550 members balloted on industrial action.
Turnout was 65.2 per cent, with 337 journalists voting on the issue of strike action; 236 in favour (70 per cent) and 101 against (30 per cent).
So while 70 per cent of members in favour of strike action sounds impressive, the truth is that only 236 of JP’s 1,900 journalists actually wanted to go on strike.
And perhaps more worrying for the Union, even if it achieves it’s aim and takes action, only 550 journos will hit the streets (assuming if course all Union members will rally behind the overall decision and take action).
That leaves 1,350 journalists at work.
Make of that what you will…

State of Play: Lies, damned lies and statistics?

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