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Reach to launch seven new regional websites and hire 46 journalists in major digital expansion

Mirror, Express and Star publisher Reach has said it will launch at least seven new regional news websites next year and recruit 46 journalists in a “significant expansion” of its digital network.

The publisher will launch websites under its “Live” branding covering Sunderland, County Durham, Sheffield, North Yorkshire, Bradford, Newport and Bolton.

Alongside its existing Leeds Live website, Reach said the new sites will mean it will have a dedicated local presence across the whole of Yorkshire and represent a “major new investment”.

The new hires will take up permanent roles, the publisher has said.

The move will see Reach directly challenge rival publishers such as JPI Media (formerly Johnston Press) which owns the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Sheffield Star and Sunderland Echo, and Newsquest, which owns the Northern Echo, Durham Advertiser and Bolton News.

The announcement comes as Reach is understood to be the frontrunner in negotiations to buy JPI Media’s 200 regional titles, reportedly outbidding Newsquest’s tabled £50m offer.

Reach’s first “Live” website was launched in 2015 with Belfast Live, a title which Reach said has grown to over 11m monthly page views despite it having no previous foothold in the region.

The Live model splits the digital news operation from the print operation in regions where the publisher already has a print presence, such as in Birmingham where the Post team and Live team are separate.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said: “We have already seen rapid growth across the entire Live network this year, including in cases where we’ve established completely new brands and grown new audiences.

“Our digital regional proposition presents a major opportunity to expand our readership even further with the Live brand. Now is the time to expand this proven model on an even bigger scale and bring our journalism to even more communities across the country.”

Group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley added:  “We know that readers today trust our regional journalism more than ever.

“We are also confident that we know better than the rest how to grow an engaged online audience – so it is really exciting to be able to put our money where our mouth is and make this kind of investment.

“What better way could there be to demonstrate our confidence in the future of local news?”

Reach said that as part of the investment some existing Live news websites will “see editorial expansion”, with teams at Edinburgh Live and Glasgow Live set to boost their numbers.

Under the expansion, Neil Hodgkinson has been named editor-in-chief of Yorkshire and Humber, and Helen Dalby has taken the role of editor-in-chief for the North East.

Reach said Dalby is its first regional editor-in-chief to “rise through the ranks as a digital journalist”.

The new sites are expected to go live in 2020, with the first launches scheduled as early as February.

Picture: Reach

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4 thoughts on “Reach to launch seven new regional websites and hire 46 journalists in major digital expansion”

  1. The suggestion you make ‘Observer ‘is something I and my colleagues have been discussing for some time,
    Archant started the ball rolling with the announcement this week that they’ll open a news site in Peterborough a long held JPI territory,as part of their Google funded project to make online news pay despite failing to sufficiently monetise their own sites so it will be interesting to see what,if anything, JPI do about this threat to their existing print and digital revenues
    Whilst no fan of Reach I believe this to be a model that can work across the U.K. and not just in existing Reach territories.With all the bigger publishers in disarray losing copy sales by the day and seeing ad revenues bottom out,I honestly feel it’s time to take the gloves off and remove barriers and for publishers to launch news sites in any area irrespective of who’s there already, a fresh pair of eyes in areas long held by ailing publishing groups might well be what’s needed.
    Natural selection will determine the outcome and the public will choose from who what and where they obtain their local news, they’re turning away from the current regional press brands in their own areas so there’s nothing to lose and much to be gained.
    Readers will always go where the news is relevant and local which should reduce the amount of generic, irrelevant old news ,its text speak style and over use of ICYMI to gather clicks, local businesses, for too long at the mercy of monopolistic traditional publishers and their ad rates which bear no resemblance to the greatly reduced print numbers these titles now reach,will also benefit from the competitive rates such a move would force, it is also likely to encourage longer term spends and revenue commitment if the sites work and bring response.

    It’s radical and there would be fall out but when publishers are stuck in the mud losing audiences and going nowhere,new approaches and giving communities back what the established titles have failed to deliver would be welcomed.
    It’s also credible that Reach are using their own money to fund these new ‘live’ sites as opposed to publishers such as Archant,who see themselves as being innovative and are evangelistic about being a digital only business even though they’re still running with a sales and management team used to selling ads on the page in newspapers and clearly not understanding or buying into the digital medium. They also see pretentious sales team names, (‘concierge’ anyone?)
    to be more important than real grass roots engagement and a hyper local wholly relevant news service to the communities they claim to serve. At least Reach are putting their money where their mouth is and funding it themselves.

    Fiefdoms and traditional territorial empires have fallen for a variety of reasons, many self inflicted, and new smaller independent hyper local publishers have sprung up to fill the gaps and are succeeding so it’s time for the big players to move on and do whatever’s necessary to provide a comprehensive sustainable profitable and professional news service at a hyper local level which the public both want and will engage with.

    If not why not run up the white flag and get out of the race right now.

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