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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 10:48 GMT
Express reviews websites
Express website
The new owner of the Express newspaper, Richard Desmond, has moved swiftly to consider closing the group's four websites, with a loss of 40 jobs.

A spokeswomen for Mr Desmond, Sarah Ewing, confirmed to BBC News Online that the websites were under review with three options being put to staff - redundancy, redeployment, or a dramatic improvement in profitability.

The new owner wants to increase productivity
The new owner wants to increase productivity
The websites, which cost Express Newspapers 8m each year, and occupy half a floor in its headquarters, only bring in 240,000 worth of advertising annually.

Mr Desmond, who bought the Express last week for 125m from United News & Media, is believed to be looking for substantial cost savings to help bring the group back into profitability. He also wants to "cross-fertilise," using stories from his celebrity magazine OK! in the Express and its sister title, the Daily Star, and to launch a Sunday edition of the Star.

Matthew Bugden, the director of New Media for Northern & Shell, Mr Desmond's company, said that there was "no intention of abandoning new media" and that new plans would be announced in the next few weeks.

Megastar not included

The websites under review include the Daily Express, Sportslive, and two specialist websites, allaboutparents, targeted at families, and companyleader, targeted at small and medium size businesses.

According to a spokeswoman, none of the sites are remotely profitable.

Monthly losses at Express websites
Express - cost 101,000; revenues nil
Sportsline - cost 147,000; revenues 17,000
Allaboutparents - cost 178,000; revenues 2,000
Companyleader - cost 87,000; revenues 1,000
source: Northern & Shell
But United News & Media's new media division Xilerate kept control of the most popular site, the lads-oriented Megastar site, with 18.7m page views a month, and 330,000 individual users, boosted by a 3m advertising campaign.

United has said that it will sign a content deal with the Daily Star to ensure that at least 40% of its content comes from the newspaper.

Xilerate, however, is generally concentrating on its business to business titles, and last week announced the closure of its Utravel site, which provided a list of travel agents and had 80,000 unique visitors.

It is reported to have put up its LineOne website for sale, and questions have been raised about the future of its other consumer sites, like dotmusic.

Northern & Shell says it will shortly launch a website for OK! magazine, which may be linked to the Express sites.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | Business
OK! owner buys Express
22 Nov 00 | Business
Northern & Shell wins Express race
16 Oct 00 | Business
Last chance Express?
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