Belfast Telegraph fraying at the edges…

In all the rush, we nearly missed the travails at the Belfast Telegraph. The 4,000 sq ft office space at Independent House in the Waterside in Derry is to close, just four years after it was opened. At the time, Tony O’Reilly told the press “Our investment to the North West Telegraph is showing encouraging results with sales having grown by 18% in the last 12 months. Advertising growth is up nearly a third in the same time with further growth of over 50% planned year-on-year – daily readership exceeds 30,000.” It turns out, that that was a very optimistic outlook. The paper’s management broke the news to the editorial team in Derry yesterday morning. Two of them will be kept on but will work from home. There will be one editor/reporter role and one reporter/sports role. Of the remaining three staff, two reporters will be offered the chance to re-locate to Belfast and re-train as page editors. Discussions are on-going with the photographer.

Slugger understands that if they choose not to take this, they will be offered a voluntary severance package.

But this seems likely to be the onset of further pain elsewhere in the organisation. All other departments are facing cutbacks in response to a big drop in recruitment and property advertising. There is nothing cast in stone yet, but but staff been told to expect pain. They have promised there will be no forced redundancies.

As Conall noted earlier in the week, this comes along with the gutting of the once prestigious business section of the Telegraph. Without doubt, the newspaper business is getting squeezed.

It is not clear why the paper with by far the largest circulation in Northern Ireland is being forced to cut it journalism resources so close to the bone. The Independent in England is known to leeching large amounts of revenue.

  • It is not clear why the paper with by far the largest circulation in Northern Ireland is being forced to cut it journalism resources so close to the bone. The Independent in England is known to leeching large amounts of revenue.

    It’s for exactly that reason, I’d suggest.

    The BT and British Independent are lumped together in IN&M;’s reports and as a result it gives the appearance of a very profitable sub-division. In reality the profit is entirely that of the BT’s, which is making so much that it counteracts the huge losses of the Independent.

    O’Reilly has made clear that he’s not going to ditch the Independent and wants to keep it in his stable – that could be because he thinks it will come good eventually but it’s probably there as a loss-leader or an ego-trip.

    As is the irony of all business, when a business does well it tends to get ignored in terms of investment. When a business does badly it tends to get money pumped into it from every angle.

    The logic is probably this: The Independent can’t afford to lose staff because it’s already so low in circulation and a drop in staff, and as a result copy, would only damage that.

    On the flip side the BT is making a profit but some careful fat-trimming should save the company more money than it will lose as a result of any drop in quality.

  • God I hate the BT.

  • Mick Fealty

    Adam,

    That’s ironic, since the fear was a southern proprietor would skew things away from unionist point of view. Instead it’s being sunk under the weight of supporting the English project.

  • Dewi

    It’s a really tough business these days. Independent (which you can read in its entirety for nothing on the Web) seems to offer books, brilliant posters, CDs and all sorts of stuff with its printed version. And it’s usually only a quid on a Sunday. (Worth it for Jonathan Davies and that grumpy Alan Watkins (from the same valley….)) – must be losing thousands.

    Further challenged by on-line video news, free papers, the BBC website, blogs for commentary. Be interested to hear any insider’s views on the Industry’s future.

  • interested

    I blame whatever muppets they have working on the morning edition myself.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Ed Curran should write one of his columns about it, viz:

    Dear New Belfast Telegraph Editor, why is it all going to hell in a handcart? Yours, Ed.

  • The Bellylaugh is a load of rubbish anyway. Even the Evening Standard is a better paper. Maybe their old pals in the NIO can bale them out.

  • That’s ironic, since the fear was a southern proprietor would skew things away from unionist point of view. Instead it’s being sunk under the weight of supporting the English project.

    True, although people should have realised that O’Reilly is pragmatic as opposed idealistic – regardless of the Independent’s stage he’ll have his newspapers toe whatever line is going to generate the most in revenue.

    Besides, you could hardly accuse a ‘Knight Commander of the British Empire’ of being much in the way of a hardline Republican!

  • Niall

    First Subprime casualty?? They were getting loads of property related advertising which is banjaxed. I wouldnt get too excited about how it did in the property bubble with revenue as this is now deed and will remain so for two year according to the bankers.

    Not nice to see people lose their jobs but as papers go it has always been a mystery to me.

    As for it’s recent performance as an advertisement space for the disastrous norn iron credit disaster those responsible deserve to have economic realities brought home to them. Of course those who ramped the subprime credit gorge will be well out of the way of the redundancies.

  • Mick Fealty

    That would be an honorary KCBE Adam, surely?

  • janeymac

    “That would be an honorary KCBE Adam, surely?”

    Don’t think so Mick – he was born prior to 1949 and has dual citizenship. Terry Wogan is another one with dual citizenship. Bono & Geldof are honorary KCBE.

    Interesting interview here with O’Reilly from a few years back!

    http://www.catholicireland.net/pages/index.php?nd=57&art=712