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March 3, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:04am

City AM tops 3m monthly website visitors and eyes autumn return

By Charlotte Tobitt

City AM has topped 3m monthly online readers for the first time as its print edition looks likely to return by the autumn.

The business newspaper’s free distribution model to London commuters was hit hard by the first Covid-19 lockdown in March last year, forcing the suspension of the print edition and a switch to a digital-first newsroom.

The City AM website reached 3.2m unique visitors in February compared to 1.4m in the same month last year, growth of 125%, according to Comscore figures shared by the publisher.

The title said page views were also up “significantly” to 5.4m, per Google Analytics.

The publisher said 75% of its website visitors come from the UK, largely from the same “ABC1, working full time” demographic as the newspaper, and that mobile traffic now makes up 72% of all visits compared to 57% last year.

Chief operating officer Harry Owen said monthly revenues were up 200% due to diversification into new programmatic channels, native content solutions, podcasts, video, newsletters, sponsorship and display formats.

The City View podcast has racked up 45,000 downloads since its launch in April last year initially as a daily before going weekly, now hosted by acting editor Andy Silvester.

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“We are all looking forward to the newspaper, magazine and events returning but, in the meantime, the digital journey is keeping us very busy,” Owen said.

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Press Gazette understands commuter footfall will be assessed in the lead-up to summer before a decision is made on a new return date for the print newspaper.

It has already been planned for and delayed twice – the original plan was to return in September, and then October, as commuters were slower to return than anticipated and then the Government reimposed its advice to work from home as Covid-19 cases began to rise again.

The Government roadmap for exiting lockdown is aiming to remove all legal limits on social contact on 21 June and its guidance states that people should be continuing to work from home until a review of what social distancing measures are needed in offices is complete.

Before the pandemic hit, City AM was distributing about 85,000 copies each day.

City AM co-founder and managing director Lawson Muncaster suggested on Linkedin that he believes the paper will return in the autumn.

The publisher made nine of its 25 editorial staff redundant in October, many relating to production or distribution.

It avoided making job cuts until then through pay cuts and by making use of the Government’s job retention scheme, which it continued to use in December according to the latest data release.

[Read more: The Guardian, ITN and Economist among news brands taking govt furlough cash in December]

Editor Christian May stepped down after five years in November, with the new digital-first team now led by deputy and former Sun PR and leader writer Silvester.

Digital editor Michiel Willems was recruited in October, while opinion and features editor Sascha O’Sullivan and Crypto AM editor Darren Parkin both joined in February to work alongside existing news editor Josh Martin.

Silvester said: “This milestone is testament to the hard work that all the team have put in to continue to deliver business news with accuracy, verve, and a sense of humour. We have reshaped our newsroom for a digital-first world and it’s heartening to see that readers old and new are noticing.

“I’m personally hugely proud to lead a team of young, hungry reporters who have shown real fortitude to cover the extraordinary stories around Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic despite, at times, hugely challenging circumstances. As the City and the capital kicks back into life, I’m thrilled to say that City AM will be right at the heart of it.”

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