No more daily deals, new digital newspaper focus for Trinity Mirror

Five weeks in as new CEO of big UK news publisher Trinity Mirror, former HMV chief Simon Fox has the first outlines of yet another group restructure.

Fox wants to merge Trinity Mirror’s distinct national and regional news publishing divisions, double-down on creating digital products for its newspapers and close its Happli daily deals service to fund digital development (full announcement).

Trinity Mirror publishes national titles including The Mirror and Daily Record plus over 130 regional papers and over 500 digital products.

According to Fox’s staff memo (via Guardian):

“We urgently need to bring to market a suite of digital products that support all of our titles and enable us to rapidly grow digital advertising revenue.

“This will include improved websites, mobile and tablet applications across Apple and Android platforms.

“In order to ensure that sufficient capital is allocated to new product development, it is our intention to close our loss-making Happli division. I want to thank Dave Raywood and his team for all their hard work over the last 12 months. We will today commence consultation with the employees affected and will seek to utilise the assets and capabilities built by Happli in other parts other business, particularly reader offers.

“Our resources are limited and have to be laser focussed on developing new revenue streams that have the greatest chance of success. These are most likely to build upon the expertise, customers and brands we already have in the group and to have the capability of reaching the scale required to become a leading player.”

Trinity Mirror’s national digital advertising revenue grew 13.3 percent last year to a paltry £3.4 million £5.5 million, whilst regional digital advertising revenue even declined to £25.1 million. Many of Trinity Mirror’s sites are a mess.

Searching for answers, the group became the latest to launch a Groupon clone this March when it formed Happli out of Frugaloo, the NimbleCommerce-powered daily deals site it tested in Manchester and Newcastle. The group had allocated £10 million investment over three years to Happli, expecting it to become profitable by 2014 and to reap annual revenue of £20 million in the same year, in a market it said would be worth £1 billion by 2016.

Arguably, Happli – which was unrelated to particular old-line newspaper products – is exactly the kind of new revenue stream Fox really wants. Johnston Press has launched such a site, and Mail Online publisher A&N Media is now undertaking a large marketing campaign for its equivalent, Wowcher. But Fox appears to favour making better app and website touchpoints for his existing newspapers.

Even under previous CEO Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror had identified a need to create a group-wide digital unit, headed by UK nationals MD Chris Ellis.

It seems like Trinity Mirror has undergone a digital restructure every year for six years now. The biggest corporate restructure, however, is this time’s unification of national and regional. According to Fox:

“Regionals and nationals face fundamentally the same market pressures. Going forwards we will tackle these issues as one united team. We are currently confusing our advertisers with multiple points of contact”