Johnston Press boosted by the i newspaper and increased digital focus

 
Alys Key
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The i has defied the decline in national newspaper sales (Source: Getty)

Revenue dropped at Johnston Press last year despite a strong performance from the i newspaper.

The figures

In a trading update for the 52 weeks to 30 December 2017, the company said that revenues had fallen five per cent on the year.

This was due to a six per cent drop in publishing revenues, a decline which would have been 13 per cent without the inclusion of i.

Digital revenue increased three per cent overall, with a 14 per cent boost to non-classified categories.

Newspaper circulation also added two per cent to annual revenues as the impact of the acquisition of i came to fruition.

Why it's interesting

Johnston bought the i back in April 2016, but last year marked the first full year since the acquisition. Since the takeover, the i has grown to make £1m a month after increasing circulation.

It now has a 20 per cent share of the "quality" weekday market, and the relaunch of the weekend edition increased readership.

"What this highlights is that national newspapers are not automatically doomed to decline if they can get the content and appeal right," said analysts at Liberum.

But the company has not just rested on the laurels of its acquisition, ramping up digital operations of its local papers in UK cities. Web traffic was up more than 40 per cent to titles in Belfast, Leeds and Sheffield.

It also took over contract printing for the Daily Mail and Metro, increasing contract printing revenue by four per cent.

What Johnston Press said

"A slowing down of top line decline is encouraging while further growth in our audiences and digital revenues, underpinned by additional cost reduction, enabled us to maintain profit margins," said chief executive Ashley Highfield.

"In 2018, alongside our strategic review of financing options, we will continue to invest in the business, including recruiting 32 journalists funded by the BBC, and a further 21 editorial staff and 10 specialist digital sales staff as we seek to accelerate digital growth further while reinforcing our offering of quality, trusted content across all platforms."

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