The new group is of significant size and scale to compete and achieve cost-savings in a challenging market, staff at the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo headquarters in Cork were told yesterday.
The Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh said the ultimate aim of the acquisition of Landmark Media’s assets by the Irish Times DAC is to create a group greater than the sum of its parts.
The deal included the Evening Echo, regional titles including the weekly Waterford News & Star, Roscommon Herald, Western People, The Nationalist, Kildare Nationalist, Laois Nationalist, Naas and Newbridge Nationalist, the websites breakingnews.ie, irishexaminer.com, recruitireland.com, and 75% of benchwarmers.ie, 75% of WLR and BEAT FM radio stations, and 17.6% of RedFM.
But Mr Kavanagh, who was flanked by Irish Times editor, Paul O’Neill and Irish Times HR director, Majella Gallagher, said change will be required in a group which now employs some 900 people across newspapers, websites and radio interests.
He also confirmed the new group is now debt-free and that interim editor of the Irish Examiner, Allan Prosser, will remain in the post full-time.
We felt that the Irish Times should take a leadership position in terms of the consolidation that is inevitable in the media sector, in news publishers in Ireland,” Mr Kavanagh said.
“And if we were to sit back and not take this opportunity and somebody else were to acquire this group, it would leave the Irish Times group in a disadvantaged position.
“By bringing two like-minded Irish media organisations together, it has created an Irish-owned group which is now in an enhanced market position.”
He insisted that the Irish Examiner will continue to have its own management structure and editorial independence, and will not become “The Irish Times in Cork”. And while there will be consolidation, a sharing of systems and content, the details have yet to be set out, he said.
Considerable work took place during the 18-month acquisition process, he said, but a new process starts today during which Irish Times management will engage and consult with former Landmark Media staff in a spirit of “openness, collaboration and communication”.
This is not a day where people might have expected that we might arrive and have a plan that we will roll-out and implement, and make various announcements,” he said. “These are things that the organisation will collectively decide that we should do.
“We want to start a process where we will engage positively in all areas of the enlarged group, including those in the Irish Times, to bring about the change that is necessary within the enlarged group.”
Investment in digital assets will be a key part of the journey, he told staff.
“We believe in a long-term digital future opportunity to enhance and develop digital assets of the Examiner group to be able to serve a new and younger audience in the longer term,” he said.
We will look positively at a paid-for content model to be able to try and develop that and those audiences and revenues in the future.
“We need to think about the digital future. We need to find a way to enhance and support investment in digital content and platforms that are going to serve the readers of the future.
“If we keep the readers in mind, we will hopefully build their loyalty and the revenues that come from them.”
He also said that while change is absolutely necessary and absolutely needed, it will happen within a framework which will seek to retain the integrity of both daily titles, and a commitment to quality journalism.
Mr Kavanagh acknowledged the Crosbie family’s stewardship of their publishing interests over 146 years. “There is a real sense of history in that. You have faced difficult times over the last number of years — some not of your own making, some of it because of the market conditions we found ourselves in,” he said.
“But I think the Crosbie family can be proud, and all of you can be proud of the tradition that is here and that we hope we can continue on.”
He also acknowledged the role of former Landmark Media chief executive, Tom Murphy, and Sean O’Keeffe, in ensuring the acquisition got over the line.