Profits Up for Local Press Publishers

Profits are up by nearly a quarter for both Johnston Press and Archant which published their financial results this week.

Johnston Press announced that profit before tax increased by 23 per cent to £31.5 million while  Archant’s operating profits increased by 20 per cent from £8.0 million to £9.6 million.

Archant said that 2015 had been the publisher’s  best relative performance since 2007, despite difficult industry conditions, with magazine circulations increasing in more than half of titles and newspaper circulation revenues showing small year on year growth, with price rises offsetting circulation volume declines.

Announcing its results,  Johnston Press that he proposed acquisition of the i was approved at a general shareholder meeting with 99.9 per cent of votes cast in favour.  The deal will be completed on 10 April 2016.

The publisher’s  digital audience grew by 41 per cent year on year to 22.6 million unique users in December with total monthly audience across print and online growing 19.8 per cent to 31.9 million in the same period.

Total digital revenues grew 12 per cent to £30.6 million, representing 21 per cent of advertising revenues with revenue from digital display advertising up 27 per cent. National display revenues across print and digital were up 12 per cent year on year.

The fourth quarter saw us launch redesigned websites for the Scotsman, Yorkshire Post, Sheffield Star and Portsmouth News, with significant audience uplift, with the rollout of the new design to other large brands happening during 2016.

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield said: “The challenging trading conditions experienced in the second half of 2015 have continued into Q1 2016. We have reduced costs to maintain profitability, reset our portfolio and refocused on priority markets with attractive audiences that offer the best opportunity for growth. Success in driving our national display advertising business in 2015 and the rollout of our local display advertising Sales Force initiative gives me confidence for the future despite the fact that the market remains difficult.

“The acquisition of the i newspaper is also incredibly exciting for us. It gives us scale, with a combined JP plus i daily print circulation of over 600,000 papers making us the UK’s 4th largest news publisher, and thus numerous revenue and cost synergy opportunities. Further, not only will the i contribute positively to earnings but it will allow us to accelerate growth in digital, and help stabilise our circulation revenues. In conjunction with the planned asset disposals this will enable us to continue to reduce debt levels and cut financing costs further.”