Future plans more magazine launches despite downturn

Future chief executive Stevie Spring has said the publisher is planning more magazine and online launches – despite facing “a tsunami of negative market forces”.

Speaking to Press Gazette as the company unveiled its half-year results this morning, Spring said Future’s UK titles were “holding up well” and had escaped the job cuts that had been implemented in the US.

And she said that conditions looked to be improving in the third quarter of the financial year, but it was too early to say “whether these are green shoots or just a weed”.

Future’s UK business – which publishes titles including Total Film, Guitar World and the Official Playstation Magazine – reported a six per cent year-on-year revenue drop to £52.3m in the six months to the end of April, including a nine per cent fall in advertising.

UK circulation revenue was down six per cent – made up of a 14 per cent decline in newsstand sales but a nine per cent increase in subscriptions.

US revenue was down 16 per cent like for like and total group revenue fell £78.3m to £76.6m – a decline of 11 per cent when the effect of fluctuating exchange rates is stripped out.

Group operating profit for the half-year was halved from £5.2m to £2.6m.

Spring said the results had been impacted by a £1.4m increase in late payments and a costly dispute with newsstand distributors and wholesalers in the US, which has now been resolved.

The company also said that some of the cost savings achieved in the US were not reflected in the first-half results and would become visible later in the financial year.

“The UK business is holding up well,” Spring told Press Gazette. “In the American business we’ve really turned down the investment in online. We’ve sadly had to cut staff by about 12.5 per cent.”

Earlier this month, Future secured a new £42m banking facility until November 2012, allowing it to restructure its debts and giving it room to invest in new launches.

Recent arrivals have included The Knitter and Triathlon Plus, which are said to already be ahead of target, and Spring said further launches were likely in market segments already served by Future titles.

“We’re not a company that is short of good ideas,” she said. “The launches will be linked to our adjacent segments – they are not big risks.

“There are waxings and wanings – some things are going up and some things are going down. There’ll be new launches – online only and print only. It’s a living iterative process.”

Future said its performance remained “on track” for the full year despite the revenue decline.

Spring added: “Does the third quarter look better? Yes it does. Whether these are green shoots or just a weed I’m not sure.

“We’ve run flat out to stand still. With a tsunami of negative market forces I think it’s a bloody brilliant testament.”

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