Ten questions for… Mark Hollinshead

HELPING launch a new series on allmediascotland.com, Ten Questions For…….Mark Hollinshead – managing director of Trinity Mirror Nationals division (which includes the Daily Record, Sunday Mail and the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People) – tackles your questions on the changing face of news provision, the Scottish Daily Mirror and much, much more.

Next up is Atholl Duncan, head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland. Send your questions – by noon, Friday.

1. Was the decision to reduce the Scottish Daily Mirror’s staff contingent to one a recognition that the paper was cannibalising the Daily Record for content and a rival when it came to sales? Anon.

No, I do not believe the Daily Mirror was/is cannibalising sales of the Daily Record. That might have been the case ten years ago when a former management team allowed the Daily Mirror to sell at 10p in Scotland.

In the future, the Scottish Daily Mirror will play to its strengths and the single key strength is coverage of English Premier League football.

With over 350,000 ‘Anglos’ in Scotland, the appetite for Premier League coverage is growing, with Setanta and Sky fuelling that desire.

In editorial terms, the Daily Mirror cannot compete with the resource the Daily Record and other big titles have on the ground in Scotland but where it can compete is match reporting on the exploits of Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and, of course, the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Just the other evening, I tabled that very point to Scotland’s top football writer, Jim Traynor: there are as many Scots interested in Man Utd as there are in Hearts.

2. What is the single most important skill for graduates to have when seeking employment as journalists with Trinity Mirror? Robert Beveridge, lecturer in media policy and regulation, Napier University.

We take it as read that all graduate journalists will be fully-trained in the technical aspects of their chosen profession such as shorthand and media law.

The key attribute, I believe, any bright, enthusiastic, young journalist requires is a broad vision of how the media landscape is changing by the hour and how, through a constant learning process, they will have to continuously adapt their own skills to keep pace with the rate of rapid change.

3. How do you see people’s consumption of news changing, including with new technology, and how does a newspaper group, such as Trinity Mirror, respond to these possible changes? Claire Munro.

People’s consumption of news is changing dramatically as we can see by the enormous increase in the depth and breadth of choice the consumer now has to access content across a vast variety of different media platforms.

This is one of the key strategic issues facing all media businesses.

Those media businesses who think their news websites should solely replicate what they do in print will fail. My belief is that we have to forensically track our readers’ behaviour so that we can deliver content on time using a technology platform and presentation format that they want.

At Trinity Mirror, we are currently delivering content through a wide range of media platforms such as mobile, through hyper-local community websites, through vertical sites such as football blogs and, of course, through our mainstream newspaper-branded sites.

4. Are you expecting newsprint prices to increase next year, and, if yes, will that mean a price hike for the Daily Record and Sunday Mail? Anon.

The whole newsprint market should be driven by the economic laws of supply and demand.

The exponential growth in the free, daily newspaper market experienced in recent years – coupled with the organic growth of newspaper circulation in the likes of India and China – has meant demand has outstripped supply, which has generated a parallel increase in prices.

So, yes, we are expecting newsprint price increases next year but how that impacts our cover price strategy is – as you might expect me to say – commercially confidential.

5. Is the newspaper industry a dying industry? Or are you with Rupert Murdoch in disagreeing with the doomsayers? Anon.

I am certainly with Mr Murdoch in disagreeing with the doomsayers.

But the challenge has never been greater and our editors and journalists, more than ever, need to be finely tuned into what news and content is relevant and demanded by our readers.

Great writing and reporting, combined with captivating photo journalism, will always be at the heart of a great newspaper.

You will know yourself that the intimacy, portability and feel of a good newspaper is an unique experience.

6. You’ve attributed The Sun becoming the biggest-selling daily to it dropping its price. But it didn’t on a Saturday and still it sells more on that day than the Daily Record. Why? Anon.

There’s still a significant price differential on a Saturday but I’m not going to get bogged down in that argument as there will be a Harvard case study on the whole impact of price in the Scottish Daily newspaper market one day.

The Daily Record and The Scottish Sun are both very strong newspapers and have a keen understanding of the different market sectors they occupy. Yes, they are different. Also, you only have to look at the combined sale on a given day to see that they sell more than the rest of the daily market combined.

Such intense competition does drive creativity and innovation and my main concern is that, while the rest of the majority of the indigenous print industry in Scotland spends their time debating the merits of the circulation battle between the Daily Record and Scottish Sun, they themselves are struggling.

This is not good for the industry. They should concentrate on writing for their readers rather than for other journalists. Scotland needs a vibrant, healthy press and we should all strive to be the best we can possibly be.

7. In light of reports about the shaky future of newspapers, would it be better for me, as a student, to focus more on other types of journalism, like broadcast or web journalism? Fiona Kirkcaldy.

Newspapers have a long future, Fiona. Although we live in challenging times, I would still strongly recommend being a newspaper journalist. Do, though, be alert to the broader non-print opportunities, as you build up your skills. My own, youngest son wants to be a journalist and I’m encouraging him to achieve what he wants to do.

8. How important are video and still images to the future development of the news pages of web-based newspapers, bearing in mind the exponential growth of download speeds? Anon.

Very important. We are about to embark on training for all our journalists and photographers in video journalism, using latest mobile technology. The increase in bandwidth and the speed of downloading video and images will, as you identify, drive more comprehensive use of journalist, and also reader-generated, content as we further develop our multi-media product platforms.

9. How can a corporate group such as Trinity Mirror continue to give a quality service to readers in local regions if they do not employ enough journalists on the ground who know the locality intimately? Grace Franklin, editor, LOCAL NEWS SOUTH.

You obviously have a specific point to make, Grace, about a particular geographical area. If you wish to pick up the phone and expand your question, I can point you in the right direction to get the answer you are looking for. The Daily Record and Sunday Mail do, however, from my latest information, employ more frontline reporters than any other title in Scotland.

10. What do you think will be the biggest challenge the next generation of journalists will face? Adam Carrington, journalism student, Napier University.

The journalist of the future will have be multi-skilled and very adaptable to the shorter cycles of technological change and how they impact the way we deliver content across different media channels. The challenge, therefore, is to be better versed in technology and how it shapes consumer behaviour.