I was asked by the University of Huddersfield’s press office to write a bit for their View From The North blog on Friday about the announcement that Trinity Mirror is in talks to buy the Daily Express and its sister titles. And here’s my by now lukewarm take in full:
THE Daily Express was once the biggest newspaper in Britain. Owned by Lord Beaverbrook and produced in art deco palaces in Manchester, Glasgow and on Fleet Street, it routinely sold four million copies a day.
Now it struggles to shift a tenth of that and has a reputation for being more interested in lurid conspiracy theories about Princess Diana than serious journalism. So why would the owner of the Daily Mirror be interested in buying it?
Trinity Mirror is the UK’s biggest publisher of newspapers and magazines, with the Huddersfield Examiner among more than 200 local and regional titles in its stable.
Buying the Express and its sister publications would allow it to squeeze more cash out of the dwindling print journalism market, with significant cost savings to be had across advertising sales and back-office functions.
Trinity Mirror is nursing a hole in its pension scheme of more than £400 million – significantly more than the value of the entire company. And with the might of Google and Facebook making it hard for anyone else to make serious cash from online advertising, doubling down on print remains the easiest way for Trinity Mirror to stay afloat in the medium-term.
There’ll be changes to the actual newspapers, too. Expect glossy showbiz photos which currently feature in OK! Magazine, also part of the Express empire, to start turning up in the Mirror titles.
A big change in the politics of the Express is surely inevitable as well, with hard Brexit Euroscepticism likely to give way to a softer, potentially pro-Labour stance. This would make for a notable shift in the centre of political gravity of Britain’s declining but still influential print media.
But no matter what Trinity Mirror does, the real glory days of the Express will remain a distant memory.