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Reach, the UK’s largest commercial news publisher of titles including the Mirror and Express, will cut about a tenth of its workforce across its national and regional newspapers.
The group said about 450 jobs would be lost because of a combination of a slump in advertising revenues and a drop in demand.
Jim Mullen, chief executive, said the move was also directly linked to the decision by Meta to cut support for news on Facebook.
This year, Meta scrapped Instant Articles, a mobile-friendly format for news articles that drove traffic for publishers, as well as Facebook News, the tab on the site that showed news stories. As a result, news groups such as Reach suffered a sharp drop in digital readership.
More than 300 Reach journalists will lose their jobs in the latest round of cuts, with the remainder from other departments such as commercial. Cuts are planned across all its titles. The company said the job losses would lead to a 5 to 6 per cent reduction in operating costs.
The group has already made 330 redundancies across its titles this year and the latest job losses take the total to close to 800 in 2023. Mullen refused to rule out further cuts, saying the group always needed to “react to the environment we are in”. Reach said it expected inflationary pressures that have forced up printing costs to continue into 2024.
The decision to cut jobs was not related to the increasing use of artificial intelligence to help write stories, Mullen insisted. “Robots are not taking journalist jobs.”
Mullen said the number of articles Reach published would not fall and that the editorial team would make up 57 per cent of total staff after the latest cuts, compared with 54 per cent in 2019.
He added that the types of stories would change, however, with money being invested in formats such as short-form video designed to appeal to a younger audience led by social media influencers.
“We need to be the right size going forward. We are completely committed to journalism,” said Mullen.
In a memo to staff seen by the Financial Times, Mullen said the changes would be made “to the way we operate, the way we’re structured and the way we’re meeting the challenges facing our industry”.
He added: “There’s no hiding from the fact that as part of these changes, we’re proposing to make an estimated 450 roles across the business redundant and withdraw some vacancies.”
Laura Davison, national organiser for the National Union of Journalists, said: “Today’s announcement comes as yet another blow to Reach journalists who have adapted at pace to company demands. Members will be understandably shocked at the scale of redundancies, particularly with previous rounds already withstood in recent months and in the run-up to Christmas.”
Johnathan Barrett, an analyst at Panmure, said the cost cuts, “given the macro backdrop and volatility of newsprint prices, [are] a welcome underpinning for our 2024 expectations”.
He said valuations in the sector have “stabilised/perked up in recent months” given hopes that “macro uncertainty will reduce” as the impact of Meta’s decision unwinds.