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Digital future (alongside print) for Johnston Press

Johnston Press, the UK’s second largest regional group, is taking the leap into a digital future by announcing plans to merge online and print newsrooms. Journalists will be retrained to shoot video reports.

The plans were announced at a presentation for analysts and the press last evening when chief executive Tim Bowdler, said some 70 digital hubs would be established by the middle of next year says The Scotsman, flagship of the Edinburgh-based group of 280 daily and weekly titles which has a reputation for being canny.

While £200,000 has been spent on the first digital hub at the Lancashire Evening Post, in Preston, Bowdler believes the programme can be completed at a relative low cost.

Alex Green, Johnston’s new director of digital publishing who arrived recently from Virgin, admitted that there was “culturally some work to be done” at many of the titles.

The Guardian expands on the canny approach pointing out that Johnston last year achieved industry-leading margins of 34.7%. It quotes Bowdler as saying: “As we roll it out across the group we needn’t see a massive increase in the total editorial resource. I don’t think it should have a significant effect on margins.

“Hopefully, it will have an effect on our audience and increase our revenues because we will be selling advertising to a greater audience reach,” he said.

Johnston’s move is part of growing signs that regional newspapers are waking up to the fact that the future is digital.

See also my post on journalism training needs.

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