Summary:

Some low-hanging fruit in newspapers’ shrivelling orchard – Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) says it is investing in a Groupon (NSDQ: GRPN) copycat…

Trinity Mirror CEO Sly Bailey

Some low-hanging fruit in newspapers’ shrivelling orchard – Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) says it is investing in a Groupon (NSDQ: GRPN) copycat and is repeating its earlier-stated intention to launch paid tablet editions, as it seeks to turn around shrinking profit.

Newspapers were later than the daily deals sites to devise an engaging online local ad proposition. Now Trinity Mirror says it will spend £10 million on its new “Happli” over the next two years, expecting to reap annual revenue of £20 million by 2014.

Happli is formed out of Frugaloo, the deals site Trinity Mirror previously tried out in Manchester and Newcastle. It will be leveraged through its regional ad sales teams and is the latest deals site for newspapers powered by NimbleCommerce, on whose platform Johnson Press recently launched its own DealMonster.co.uk.

Trinity Mirror, which publishes both regional and national newspapers and sites and is led by CEO Sly Bailey, on Thursday said annual pre-tax profit fell 40 percent through 2011 to £74.4 million thanks to rising newsprint costs. Revenue fell only two percent.

Digital revenue in the group’s nationals division rose 13.3 percent in 2011 to a small-scale £3.4 million – just 2.5 percent of the unit’s total. In the regionals, digital revenue fell two percent to £25.1 million in an ongoing classifieds downturn, especially in job ads – 17.6 percent of the unit’s total.

Trinity Mirror firm has spent £30 million in four years implementing a controversial multi-platform content production system, due to be finished by 2013 with a final £15 million investment.

Now it will give the same template used in its recent MirrorOnline redesign to the rest of its sites, will launch ad-funded smartphone apps for MirrorOnline in Q2 and says it will launch “e-editions” for The Daily Mirror, Daily Record and its largest regional newspaper titles.

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