The Telegraph group is to shed 80 of its 550 editorial staff as part of what the chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, calls a root-and-branch restructure of the business. It will mean the complete merger of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph as a seven-day operation.
The cut of 14% of the staff affects print-based journalists at the two titles. It will be offset by the hiring of 50 “new digitally-focused jobs”, meaning that the overall staff reduction amounts to 5%.
In a letter to staff issued this morning, MacLennan explains that the publisher is facing a difficult commercial situation, which has deteriorated in recent months.
He explains that print advertising has declined sharply since the beginning of the year, while sales have continued to decrease. Last month, the daily paper sold an average of 541,036 copies. Given that the Saturday sale was 721,000, the weekday sale is running below 500,000 and, on some days, close to 400,000.
That must be seen in the context of increases to its website traffic. In January, its online figures improved 11% over the previous month, up to 3,129,599 average daily unique browsers.
And it is this digital reality that MacLennan is seeking to address. He tells staff that it is “of vital importance” to the company’s future to serve its expanding global digital audience.
He writes: “We must adapt and transform how we function as a business and urgently diversify our revenue streams to guarantee our position in the longer term.”
To that end, he has announced an £8m investment “to complete our transition to a digital business” which “our number one priority.”
A further change is the creation of a new position, known as director of content. Until an appointment is made, that job will be done by Richard Ellis, who is currently the executive editor.
According to MacLennan’s letter, the new director’s “principal task … will be to oversee the establishment of an all-encompassing operation to transform newsroom culture into a dynamic process with our digital products at its core … across web, tablet and smartphone.”
Though MacLennan does not refer to the company’s financial state, I understand that it continues to turn what an inside source called “a handsome profit.”
However, because it is a private business owned by Sirs David and Frederick Barclay, its accounts are less transparent than those of a publicly quoted company.
- Telegraph Group job cuts letter in full (guardian.co.uk)
- UK / Telegraph Cuts Jobs (jobmarketmonitor.com)
- Building a paywall? You’ll need to be something special (guardian.co.uk)