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Yorkshire Post owner plans “digital only model”

National World chairman David Montgomery

National World says it plans to become a “digital only” publisher, although it will still print newspapers.

Chairman, David Montgomery, stated:

“Instead of a digital first company, National World is taking the leap to being a digital only company. Newspapers will be produced on that basis rather than being the products of multiple industrial processes that should have been abandoned years ago.

“Ironically the printed newspaper products will achieve greater quality and relevance, in part mirroring characteristics of social media but strictly curated. True to our publishing heritage we will make our small weekly papers exclusively local in all content – banishing the generic content that was a feature of previous and counterproductive cost reduction measures.”

The group is currently working with tech companies to support this new operating model. It said that “at least one partnership” would allow it to benefit from “IP exploitation should the model be taken up by other publishers.”

Training would start for all creative staff to become “specialist content providers across all platforms” and “at least half” of all its journalists would be trained in video production. So far 250 have completed the training.

Across all its titles, there were 357m video views in 2022 and a doubling of video revenue.

National World will also be restructuring to move away from “rigid geographical divisions.”

Montgomery explained:

“In Yorkshire, Scotland and Northern Ireland these brands are prioritising specialisms in key topics like heritage, arts and culture, business, environment and rural affairs and making this content available on all platforms and supporting key advertisers for the longer term. Other regional daily titles are being relaunched in 2023 to relate more closely to metropolitan markets they serve and organised in formats reflecting online characteristics. 

“Our new community media division will spearhead the drive towards richer and exclusively local content promoting education and regional commercial development and businesses – leaning towards a levelling up of the media.”

The announcements have been made as National World releases its annual results. In the last financial year it achieved £9.3m in profits before tax (up from £8.6m). However, its revenue fell from £86m to £84.1m.

Digital revenue grew by 26%, which “partially offset” the 7% decline in print revenue.

Looking to the current year Montgomery added:

“Trading is expected to remain challenging for the first half. However, management continues to innovate to address the headwinds faced across the industry, including revenue initiatives, while transitioning to a digital only operational model providing customers with quality and original content across all genres and platforms. The Group maintains its performance expectations for the year.

“I anticipate further progress in transforming the business and progress with acquisitions during 2023.”

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