The Mirror and Daily Express publisher Reach has shifted 150 journalists from its regional titles to work on its national coverage in an effort to hit 60 million daily page views across its network, Press Gazette can reveal.
The transfer of staff began this week and is ongoing. It comes as a quarterly trading update from Reach showed a 0.9% decline in group revenue.
Journalists from across the publisher’s nearly 150 regional titles were told that they would be put on ‘secondment’ to work on national titles like The Mirror, Express or Daily Star or major regional titles like the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo.
Many reporters reported being given less than a week’s notice of the news before being moved to the new titles, while others have not yet been told which titles they will end up writing for.
A well-placed source told Press Gazette the number of journalists involved in the move is in the region of 150 and that the placements will last around six weeks. Reach declined to comment on these details.
Digital revenue from advertising made up £148.3m, or 24% of Reach overall revenue in 2021.
In the latest trading update (covering the first four months of 2022), digital revenue growth had slowed to 9.3% from 25% in 2021, citing the war in Ukraine reducing average yields on digital advertising.
Digital growth was not high enough to counteract a 4.2% drop in print revenue, leading to an overall fall in revenue.
According to Ipsos Iris data, in March 2022 Reach recorded 39.1 million unique monthly users across its websites and apps in the UK – making it the biggest news website publisher in the UK (ahead even of the BBC).
Reach confirmed that the move was intended to hit a traffic target of 60 million page views a day across its different brands.
Reach employed more than 2,500 journalists across its regional and national newsrooms according to figures from 2020.
A spokesperson for Reach told Press Gazette: “This week we’re launching a Network Newsroom team which will be made up of journalists from around the network, building on our existing and successful central structures such as the Reach Newswire.
“The Network Newsroom will allow us to be agile in how we deploy our editorial teams, resourcing big stories more generously and giving local teams more space to focus on delivering brilliant journalism.”
The spokesperson added that The Network Newsroom project was not tied to any specific redundancy risk for Reach reporters and would be able to provide stories for that be accessed used across the Reach network.
The news comes on the day of Reach’s annual general meeting with shareholders.
According to today’s trading update, the war in Ukraine is “significantly reducing the level of ‘brand safe’ content for news publishers”.
It added: “…since the middle of March, we have seen further inflation in operating costs, particularly within print, where the impact of newsprint (paper cost) increases will now exceed our previous expectations. We have taken additional measures to help offset this including, the acceleration of efficiency plans, changes within print production and actions around print cover prices.”
In its most recent annual results covering up to 26 December 2021, Reach operating profit was up 9.2% on an adjusted basis to £146.1m and pre-tax profit was up 9.3% to £143.5m.
Reach chief executive Jim Mullen received more than £4m in remuneration, a rise of more than 700% on the year before and 104 times the median salary in the company.
Reach has faced criticism over the last year for its focus on page view targets, with rival regional brand National World accusing it and fellow regional giant Newsquest of treating journalists like “battery hens”.