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March 21, 2024

Sun and Mail publishers’ plan to combine print operations signed off by CMA

The companies believe the plan will help ensure a "long-term sustainable future" for the UK newspaper ecosystem.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update: News UK and DMG Media’s plan to combine their printing operations in a new, separate company has been cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The senior leadership team of the joint venture will be drawn from the publishers’ existing two companies: Newsprinters managing director Darren Barker will become chief executive and DMG group production director Julia Palmer-Poucher will be chief operating officer.

The plan involves the closure of two current DMG printing sites.

Palmer-Poucher said: “The news industry has transformed and continues to change rapidly. We needed to make changes to our print capacity to underpin our commitment to our print titles and their readers.

“This was a difficult but necessary step to provide a sustainable future for our print operations. Whilst I am saddened that our sites will close, this decision ends a period of uncertainty and allows us to proceed.”

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The new company is expected to go live in early June.

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Original story 3 October 2023: Two of the UK’s biggest publishers, News UK and DMG Media, have proposed creating a joint venture to combine their printing operations.

The companies believe the proposal, which is subject to consultation and would need to be cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority, would help ensure a long-term sustainable business model for national print newspapers by making their operations more efficient and sustainable.

They pointed out in a statement that national print newspaper circulation has dropped by more than 60% in the past ten years, meaning there is spare capacity in the system. This has happened alongside an increasingly challenging economic climate and rising print and energy costs, all exacerbated by the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposal would see the creation of a new company that would operate independently, with its own leadership team drawn from Newsprinters and the DMG Media printing operation. The proposal would not mean the two publishers would work more closely in other areas of their businesses.

News UK currently owns Newsprinters, which operates three sites – Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, Knowsley in Merseyside and Eurocentral near Glasgow – printing and distributing the publisher’s own titles as well as those of other national and regional clients including Telegraph Media Group, Financial Times, Newsquest and the Evening Standard.

DMG Media, which publishes the Mail, Metro, i and New Scientist titles, operates printing sites at Thurrock in Essex, Dinnington in Yorkshire and Carn in Northern Ireland.

Under the proposals, the DMG sites in Thurrock and Dinnington would potentially be closed with the three Newsprinters sites remaining open. All sites will continue operating separately until all the regulatory processes have been completed, but staff were told on Tuesday evening of the proposals.

DMG Media would retain ownership of the Carn site, which would be unaffected.

The new company would print, on average, more than three million newspapers each night and almost 22 million per week.

Newsprinters UK managing director Darren Barker said in a statement: “Millions of newspapers are printed and distributed across the UK every day, informing and entertaining millions of their loyal readers. But the reality is that print readership has been in decline for some years now, and the sector has come under increasing pressure to better align capacity with demand. 

“I believe this joint venture is a genuinely exciting solution which sets out a long-term sustainable future for the newspaper printing industry, clients and the national daily newspaper ecosystem in the UK.”

DMG Media group production director Julia Palmer-Poucher added: “The news industry has transformed and continues to change rapidly. DMG Media is at the forefront of this transformation and also remains committed to its print titles, its workforce and its readers. 

“The decade-long decline in print circulation has not been matched with changes to print capacity and we must find ways to keep physical newspapers, which have an important future, commercially viable. This proposed combination would provide a long-term solution for the Mail print titles and a sustainable future for the newspaper printing industry.

“We are aware this will be an uncertain time for those potentially impacted and our priority is to provide staff with the support they need throughout this process.”

Earlier this year Newsprinters considered closing its Knowsley site, which was built as part of a £650m investment in print facilities at the end of the 2000s, but the plan was put on hold mid-consultation in July amid reports that an “alternative opportunity” had emerged for the business.

The Newsprinters site in Knowsley. Picture: News UK
The Newsprinters site in Knowsley. Picture: News UK

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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