Local news giant Gannett has pushed up its digital circulation revenue by a third in a year.
It is the latest development in the publisher’s campaign to refocus its business from print to digital.
The Virginia-incorporated company owns USA Today, hundreds of titles across the US and Newsquest, one of the UK’s major local news chains.
The three months to March 2022 saw Gannett’s digital-only paid subscriber numbers increase 44% compared to the same quarter in 2021.
It is the fifth consecutive quarter that Gannett has recorded more than 40% growth in its digital-only subscriber total, which now stands at 1.75 million.
The company hopes to get the figure higher than 1.85 million before the end of June, and between 2 million and 2.2 million before the year’s end.
Digital-only circulation revenue for Q1 2022 was $30.1m (£24.3m), up 30% year-on-year. Digital revenue in general was up 8.7% year-on-year to $251.1m (£202.3m), accounting for 34% of total revenue.
Its digital marketing solutions services grew similarly, up 7.3% year-on-year to $109.7m (£88.4m).
The first quarter included the launch of Gannett’s “Digital Saturday” initiative in March, which saw it drop Saturday papers in 136 markets in favour of offering subscribers access that day to the entire USA Today digital network.
The company said the launch “has resulted in an increase to the Company’s Saturday digital e-Edition usage by 55% with 351,000 average Saturday digital users.”
Outside its digital growth, the picture in Thursday’s earnings release was more mixed.
Operating revenues were down 3.7% for the first quarter, from $777.1m (£623.8m) in 2021 to $748.1m (£600.6m) this year.
Adjusted EBITDA was $64.2m (£51.4m) in the first three months of the year, versus $100.4m (£80.5m) in the same period in 2021. However, the company recorded a net loss of of $3.1m (£2.5m) for Q1 2022, against a loss of $142.7m (£115.1m) for Q1 2021.
Despite Newsquest’s acquisition of rival UK news chain Archant in March – a purchase significant enough that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has threatened to derail it – the takeover was not mentioned in Gannett’s results.
Asked how Gannett’s financial outlook might be affected should the purchase be blocked, a spokesperson said: “We are pleased to welcome Archant to the Newsquest family.
“We are not commenting on speculation.”
The company did say in the release however that Newsquest accounted for almost a quarter of the group’s digital visitors in the first quarter – 46 million out of a global 191 million total.
Picture: Reuters/Larry Downing