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June 11, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:23am

News UK warns of job cuts as it transitions to ‘digital future’ under Covid-19

By Freddy Mayhew

News UK, publisher of the Sun and Times newspapers, has warned of job cuts as it speeds up its transition to a “digital future” as a result of the impact of the coronavirus on its business.

Chief executive Rebekah Brooks told staff in an email that tough decisions needed to be taken in the coming months which would mean “saying goodbye to some valued and talented colleagues”.

The company is undertaking a business review after setting budgets for the new financial year and is looking to “streamline” the business.

“We need to maximise our resources, remove duplication and become a simpler business,” said Brooks, a former editor of the Sun.

Brooks said print sales were down across the company, which stopped making its circulation figures public last month, as a result of lockdown measures that restricted movement and closed shops.

Advertising from sectors such as retail and luxury has been impacted while revenue from sport, which still has yet to fully return, is also down.

“The impact on our revenues and the change in behaviour of our customers and clients means the transition to a digital future has accelerated sharply,” said Brooks.

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“Print remains a vital part of our business and will continue to do so for many years to come, but in some areas it may make sense to change the package that we offer to customers.”

Brooks said every part of the business is being asked to consider all of its output and “assess how we can do things better – and what we might stop doing”.

News UK’s titles have seen increased demand for content in recent months and “much of that demand has been digital”, said Brooks, with a boom in traffic and a rise in subscriptions.

Brooks said growing a digital audience would mean looking at new formats and new ways to distribute content. Later this month the company will launch Times Radio.

With the push to digital, Brooks said: “It is a priority that we continue to make the case for better financial returns from the technology platforms both from advertising and for our content.”

Facebook and Google continue to take the lion’s share of digital ad spend and have been heavily criticised for not sharing enough ad revenue with news publishers, on whose content they rely.

“We have evolved at pace, but that evolution continues,” said Brooks.

“In the coming months we will need to streamline the business and take some tough decisions, saying goodbye to some valued and talented colleagues. I appreciate this is sombre news, but it is my duty to ensure that the business is reset for a secure and sustainable future.”

She added: “As a media business, we are at the forefront of a digital disruption, but this company strongly believes that journalism and all the brilliant content that we create has a place in society and it is vital that we adapt at speed in order to preserve this.

“With constant innovation and the evolution of new customer habits, this change will be with us for some time to come. Change also presents us with new opportunities, and the chance to be creative and deliver exciting innovation ourselves.”

This time last year News UK asked Sun staff to apply for voluntary redundancy after the newspaper’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, more than tripled its pre-tax losses.

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