DC Thomson Media has moved two of its top editors into ‘brand transformation’ roles as part of an initiative backed by Google News.
The division will manage the transformation of the business to extend subscription and reader revenues across multiple platforms.
Alan McCabe, editor-in-chief of The Press and Journal, and Richard Prest, editor of The Sunday Post, will step down from their roles to work full-time on the project under the steerage of Richard Neville, head of newspapers at DC Thomson Media.
The current deputy editor of The Sunday Post, Jim Wilson, has been appointed editor and will take over on 28 October while the search for an editor of The Press and Journal has begun.
The changes come as part of DC Thomson’s involvement with the Google News Initiative funded Table Stakes Europe project.
Launched in July, it’s a programme for local and regional newspaper companies to help them improve their digital capabilities and has since signed up 15 publishers.
DC Thomson joined in a year in which it tried to recover from a double-digit fall in ad revenues. According to its most recent filings on Companies House, covering the year to March 2018, its print advertising revenues fell 11% year-on-year to £14.6m in 2018.
Digital revenues were up by 6%, making up about a fifth of total revenues. At the time, director Andrew Thomson said it needed to respond with “both a drive for greater efficiency and innovation” to combat the threat of Facebook and Google, the backer of the Table Stakes Europe.
Setting aside the threat posed by Google, Neville said it has given DC Thomson a “kick-start” to the process of creating a more sustainable future for its brands.
“The fact that we are appointing two of our most senior editors to the project shows how seriously we are taking the challenge of mapping out a long-term future for our brands and newsrooms,” he said.
“We are determined to invest our time and money in getting this right, hence the formation of a full-time team. I expect the team to grow in due course as we spend the next year or two shaping the future of our business for decades to come.”
Among a focus for the brand transformation team will likely be the role its female-led titles play. The Stylist Group, which publishes free women’s weekly Stylist, was the largest source of magazine ad revenue for the company in 2018.
It has recently undertaken its biggest women’s magazine launch in over a decade with the rollout of Platinum, a premium monthly glossy mag for women over 55.
“We have been looking at the women's market for a number of years. It is still the largest magazine sector in the UK but the segment aimed at women over 55 has proved more resilient than others in the last five years,” Maria Welch, head of magazines at DC Thomson, told The Drum at the time of its launch.