Revenue at National World was up by 5% in 2023, boosted by seven acquisitions completed last year.
Digital revenue, which made up 21% of the total, was up by 13%, with particular growth of 20% in the second half of the year. As well as the acquisitions this was put down to stronger yields and increased video advertising.
In a pre-close trading update for the year ending 30 December 2023, National World said total group revenue is expected to reach £88m – up from £84.1m in 2022 and £86m in 2021.
The publisher is now forecasting revenues above £100m in 2024.
Adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation, implementation of lease arrangements and non-recurring items) was expected to exceed £9m, in line with £9.4m in 2022 and £.9.2m in 2021.
National World chairman David Montgomery said: “In 2023 the group completed seven acquisitions of iconic and premium brands strengthening our portfolio, particularly in the events and business information sector.
“Our greater scale, combined with significant investment in innovation and automation, underpins our accelerating transition to a multi-platform content business, focused on creative and expert talent.”
National World’s seven acquisitions in 2023 were:
- Rotherham Advertiser
- B2B publisher Insider Media
- Digital football publisher Scoop Dragon
- Video-first and World of Women’s Sport publisher News Chain
- Newry Reporter newspaper in Northern Ireland
- Midland News Association
- Publishing platform supplier Press Computer Systems
In total National World paid £14.4m for the acquisitions, funded from its cash resources. They contributed £10.6m in revenue and £1.7m in adjusted EBITDA in the year, mostly in the second half.
More acquisitions are likely to follow in 2024.
Montgomery said: “Given our scalable infrastructure the company will continue to seek to take advantage of further acquisitions that release significant synergies.” The publisher’s statement added that it would primarily target businesses that will enhance its digital capabilities.
National World said that across the year, it saw average monthly page view growth of 25% – 21% in the first half of the year and 30% in the second half boosted by acquisitions.
For comparison Reach, albeit with no acquisitions made in the year, saw page views down 21% in the first nine months of 2023, with Facebook in particular blamed for falling referrals after its de-prioritisation of news.
Last year National World also began “refocusing and upgrading” its digital offering, in particular around online subscriptions on its premium brands The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and The News Letter in Belfast. It said The Scotsman had seen 7% annual subscription growth since the changes.
“With the new products now in place we are well set up to increase our loyal customer base even further in 2024, despite the possible market changes to cookies,” it said.
National World also particularly touted its growth in video, saying: “In 2023 continuing growth in output and audience supported annual revenue growth of over 50%. Our audience for video has grown by 18%, with 421 million video views on group channels in 2023, compared to 357 million in 2022.”
Freeview TV news channel Shots! was launched in August, using video from National World’s journalists around the UK, and the company said it added more than 35,000 hours of viewing to its total audience engagement between September and December.
Meanwhile, in print, National World said advertising revenue declined by 1% in 2023 to £30.6m and circulation revenue was down by 3%, also to £30.6m. Each made up 35% of the total revenue, meaning print still dominates overall.
The publisher said the falls reflected “the continued subdued consumer confidence in the UK economy because of higher inflation and interest rates”.
A 176% boost in event revenue was put down in particular to the acquisition of B2B publisher Insider Media in April.
National World said it had a cash balance of £10.7m at the end of the year. It is also now debt-free, having repaid the final tranche of the £2.5m deferred consideration due as a result of acquiring JPI Media at the end of 2020.
The publisher's full, audited results for 2023 will be published on 21 March.
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