Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Telegraph Risks Quality in Pursuit of Colour

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Telegraph Risks Quality in Pursuit of Colour

Article excerpt

Sometimes you just have to be up-front about an unreasoned prejudice that has persisted for many years and is clearly not going to change.

I am simply stuck on the idea that you need journalists - quite a lot of them actually - to have any chance of producing quality newspapers.

Of course, those who persist with this idea are considered irredeemably old-fashioned and usually suffer from a number of associated delusions, such as believing that network television and the 30-second advertising slot are not totally dead yet.

The pioneering work of Northern & Shell boss Richard Desmond has, to a very significant extent, challenged the idea that you need journalists to produce national daily newspapers. After all, the man has made many of his journalists redundant, but the papers still come out triumphantly every day and their profits continue to multiply.

One need only look at the grandeur of Northern & Shell's dramatic new headquarters on Upper Thames Street. Not even Lord Beaverbrook could have aspired to premises like that, although he was obviously undermined by the old idea that you need a lot of journalists to produce good newspapers.

David Montgomery at the Daily Mirror, along with his deputy John Allwood - who, interestingly, is now at the Telegraph Group - was an early pioneer of the theory that you could get rid of journalists by the dozen and still produce newspapers that continued to look a bit like the original.

However, the presence of Telegraph chief executive Murdoch MacLennan as a proponent of this theory of newspaper production is a bit of a surprise. After all, he presided over an era of heavy investment in editorial at Associated Newspapers through thick and thin. Yet now he wants to sack 20% of the editorial staff of the The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph as part of a cost-cutting exercise intended to fund a pounds 150m investment in colour presses. One cannot implement such a flip-flop overnight. The cognitive dissonance, as the psychologists would say, is just too great.

The only logical explanation is that MacLennan, in many ways the kindest of men, always wanted to test out his theory that you do not actually need that many journalists to produce newspapers, but had his radicalism blunted by the Viscounts Rothermere. …

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