Express to shed 220 jobs in drive for efficiency

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The Independent Online

Express Newspapers announced yesterday it is to lay off 220 employees over two years, including 80 editorial staff, in a move aimed at "enhancing operation-al efficiency and profitability".

Editorial staff cuts, revealed in the Independent yesterday, will affect up to 40 journalists and 40 production staff. Ten journalists on the Sunday Express are to go.

Other layoffs will be spread across advertising, circulation and clerical operations at the company's three national titles - the Star, the Daily Express and the Sunday Express.

"This will allow us to prepare the way forward," Andrew Cameron, managing director, said. He said he was "optimistic" about the titles' future performance and dismissed suggestions that editorial quality would be sacrificed.

Mr Cameron also said circulation at the Star and the Daily Express had remained stable, despite competitive pressures. The Sunday title, however, has experienced a drop in readership in the face of aggressive pricing from competitors.

The UK national newspaper market has been hit by a 40 per cent increase in the cost of newsprint since last summer, while a national circulation price war has dampened revenues. Publishers have responded by cutting print runs and publishing fewer sections. Some newspapers, including the Independent, have cut staff.

Mr Cameron said technological changes, including introduction of state- of-the-art scanning and text input systems, had also reduced staffing needs.

The Express group has lagged behind other national newspapers in cutting staff, according to industry executives. "There was a lot of fat in the company," the chief executive of a competing newspaper said. "They had some catching up to do."

Media analysts said further cost savings in the industry were likely to be achieved following the upgrading of technology.

The rate at which new technology is introduced is expected to accelerate. "Gone are the days when newspaper publishers bought new technology and sat on it for 15 or 20 years," an analyst said.

New technology is aimed at streamlining news gathering and production processes, allowing fewer staff to perform more functions.