Exeter media in perspective
Reach plc (called Trinity Mirror until May 2018) dominates Devon news coverage. It was already the UK’s largest regional news publisher by October 2015. Since then it has embarked on further consolidation, rolling hundreds of local titles into generic regional publishing platforms across the country then redeploying reporters to maximise online traffic by publishing national news stories on its regional websites.
The company is in trouble. Losses/writedowns were £108 million in 2018 and £200 million in 2019. It sacked 12% of its workforce in 2020 but the company’s shareholders received a £14 million half-yearly dividend and its CEO and CFO both received 700% pay increases which raised their combined 2020-21 remuneration to £7.4 million.
Last year its shares fell 25% after costs soared and operating profits fell. It announced another 200 job cuts in January and its shares lost another fifth of their value after another profit warning.
In March the company began publishing articles written using ChatGPT, large language model software often described as artificial intelligence. Its digital income is down 12% so far this year and it has just announced another 420 redundancies.
The pre-pandemic closure of the company’s Exeter office means it has since covered the city from Plymouth, following content policies determined by the financial priorities of a remote conglomerate which owns more than 250 local, regional and national titles.
Devon Live (which combines seven local titles) claims 1.9 million monthly page views, but only 10% of its readers are located in the South West region. Exeter constitutes just 6% of this population - equating to only 11,400 monthly page views.
Exeter Express & Echo is now published weekly and costs £2.20. ABC-accredited figures show its circulation has fallen by nearly two-thirds in the past five years, from 11,700 copies in 2017 to 4,400 in 2022 - including its East Devon edition.
Just a handful of non-Reach titles survive in Exeter’s satellite towns while glossy magazines peddle more PR and marketing and, in one case, promotional content provided by Exeter City Council itself.
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Exeter Observer is published by Exeter Observer Limited, Community Benefit Society No. 8435 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.
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