Johnston Press boss puts digital as priority

Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler said this week that continuing his company’s digital ‘transition’was his top priority in the run up to his retirement in 2009.

He spoke to Press Gazette as it was confirmed that headhunters were being brought in to find a replacement for him when he retires in 2009.

Bowdler, who will be 62 when he steps down, told Press Gazette: ‘Developing the transition from being a newspaper publisher to a community media company which genuinely embraces a variety of digital channels is top of my priority list.

‘I believe online revenues will continue to grow very strongly… but equally I passionately believe that print is going to remain a vitally important channel in local markets and will still continue to drive very significant revenues.”

While Bowdler believes that Johnston Press will continue to expand with further acquisitions, he said he was wary of buying up new internet companies. He said: ‘There are huge risks in buying internet businesses because valuations are so high and these businesses are, in many instances, very young. Neither they nor their brands are well established. It is difficult to recognise the likely winners.

‘I am not saying it’s a bad thing to do, it’s a perfectly valid strategy to take cash from a mature publishing business and put it into an area which might give growth, but a digital strategy in a true sense is an integrated strategy which transforms your publishing business. That can only be done organically.”

•Johnston Press sent out a message of caution for 2008 in reference to ‘recent turmoil in world financial markets and the consequential effects on the domestic economy and consumer confidence”. In its pre-close trading results for the second half, Johnston recorded increased newspaper sales revenues, digital revenues up 35.5 per cent, and ad revenues up 0.2 per cent.

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