The Independent and Mail become office-mates

In what must be one of the oddest business moves of 2008, The Independent (UK) titles are set to move in with their rivals at The Daily Mail.

Tony O’Reilly’s / Independent News & Media‘s two British publications – The Independent and The Independent on Sunday – will share office space with the Associated Press’ Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro and Evening Standard titles once it moves from London’s Docklands to Kensington, also in London.

Both sets of publications will remain in the hands of completely separate proprietors and will remain market rivals. Coincidently enough The “Irish” Daily Mail was seen as a direct threat to The Irish Independent and Evening Herald newspapers (both owned by O’Reilly) when it launched here in 2006. The Dublin edition of Metro – owned by Associated and The Irish Times – is also in direct competition with IN&M’s Herald AM

It is not uncommon for stable mates to merge office space and operations – as we in Ireland are currently seeing in the radio sector – however for two absolute rivals to do so is verging on the bizarre. What seems even stranger is the suggestion that the two companies may eventually share more resources, even if they are only described as “back-room” and not editorial.

IN&M’s UK titles have faced a lot of scrutiny lately due to their failure to turn a profit for the media giant. Denis O’Brien, a so-called ‘dissident shareholder’ in the company (and owner of the aforementioned Irish radio stations) has called on O’Reilly and Co. to ditch them due to the draining effect they have on resources.

Obviously moving in with the Mail is a step – and by no means the first – towards cutting costs at the company. How journalists working at the various publications feel about the move is yet to be known.

The Today FM / Newstalk merger moves to the next level

The relocation of Newstalk‘s studios to the same building as Today FM was a clear sign that a merger between the two radio stations was afoot. Now it appears that the Communicorp-owned operations are undertaking phase two of the merging process by bringing their respective news-rooms closer together.

It seemed apparent from the time of Denis O’Brien’s purchase of Today FM that the two stations would eventually develop a relationship akin to the one between RTÉ’s Radio 1 and 2FM – it was only a matter of when rather than if.

According to the RTÉ.ie article the new development will see back-room news resources being pooled but front-of-house newsreaders remaining unique to each station – much like RTÉ’s current set up. What results is a largely logical situation where, say, one journalist goes out to an event and later brings information back to Marconi House rather than two doing the same separately.

Unfortunately this does cut down on the potential work for journalists in Ireland at a time when the deteriorating economy is creating bad news in general for the industry. Interestingly it seems that a news-room merger had previously been rejected by the BCI but the aforementioned economic climate will be the perfect cover for Communicorp to re-pitch the idea.

There’s still more to run on this merger, however. Other back-room operations like sales and marketing will be next, if they have not already slipped into a ‘merged’ status yet. Various facets like this will begin to fall into place and the eventual final step will be an alignment of the schedule to ensure there is no conflict (which is currently only really limited to the mid-morning and drive-time slots); although this could take some time to resolve.

It’s unlikely that we will see a re-brand of either or both in the mid-term future, though – a lot has been spent on the Newstalk name and Today FM is far too strong a brand to even consider wasting.

They will become closer still, however; you can bet good money on that.

In reality it makes sense for the two to form a tag-team against the 2FM/Radio 1 alliance that has dominated radio for so long. There is still plenty of time left before such a truly joined-up operation emerges, though. If you’ll excuse the poor metaphor it’s fair to say that the two stations are currently co-habiting fiancés; the wedding is still a while away.

Digital radio turns the nation gaga (B&F – 6th November 2008)

With RTÉ recently detailing its medium-term plans for DAB radio, it seemed as good a time as any to take another look at digital radio. Of particular interest is the path RTÉ plan to take given the DAB problems going on across the water and across Europe.

The article will be uploaded in the near future but until then you can pick a copy of Business & Finance anywhere you like (in Ireland) for under €5.