Newspaper publisher Reach today reported first-quarter trading ahead of expectations after its circulation and advertising revenue was battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The London-listed group, which owns the Mirror and Express as well as a number of regional titles, said its digital revenue grew by more than a third in the four months to 25 April.
However, total print revenue fell 10.4 per cent and circulation was down 7.9 per cent. As a result total group revenue for the period fell 3.1 per cent.
Reach said the figures were flattered by soft comparatives at the same time last year, when the UK was plunged into its first coronavirus lockdown.
But it said underlying momentum had been “encouraging”, particularly in the group’s digital offering.
Shares in Reach were up just under 0.5 per cent in early trading.
Reach has set out a transformation plan as it looks to shift its focus to digital content amid a steady decline in print revenue — a trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic.
The company said it increased the number of registered users to 6.2m, up from 5.8m at the beginning of March, adding that it was on track to hit its target of 10m by 2022.
Reach said its customer engagement had continued to grow, while the company is investing in data and analytics in a bid to increase revenue per user.
It comes after the group, which owns the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, axed 550 jobs and suffered a sharp fall in revenue and profit last year.
In March City A.M. revealed the publisher will shutter office space and make most of its employees permanent home workers.
Reach will close its Lower Thames Street office in central London and reduce its office space in Canary Wharf from two floors to one.
“We have had a positive start to the year and are seeing the benefits of last year’s transformation programme,” said chief executive Jim Millen.
“With digital now accounting for more of our advertising revenues than print and growing strongly, we are well placed to make further progress during 2021.”