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Guardian Media Group has confirmed it’s having some kind of talks with rival publishers, after Telegraph.co.uk reported GMG “has discussed selling the Manchester Evening News to rival Trinity Mirror”.
GMG gave us a statement: “In line with its remit, GMG keeps its portfolio under review on an ongoing basis. Since the publication of the Digital Britain report, we have been considering the potential for further consolidation within the regional press sector, and, as part of this, there have been some exploratory talks regarding our regional media business. However, these are at a very early stage and it is not clear whether they will progress or what the outcome is likely to be.”
A sale of assets in Manchester, the heartland city of what was once The Manchester Guardian, could upset staff there, who have been enduring redundancies this year. GMG Regional Media profit tanked from £14.3 million in 2007/08 to just £500,000 in 2008/09, so it sought up to 150 redundancies from Manchester Evening News, about half of the Channel M local TV station’s staff and 95 from its Surrey and Berkshire Media publisher.
Regional news publishers include Trinity, Johnston, Newsquest, Northcliffe and Archant. The CEOs of GMG, Trinity and Johnston have this year presented a united front to government, calling for deregulation that would allow more cross-media ownership in local markets. Ofcom, too, is now urging the government for same.
But all the publishers are in the same poor financial state – what incentive there is for a rival to pay for GMG Regional Media’s titles isn’t clear.
Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.