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July 12, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:09am

Evening Standard posts £14m loss in 2021 in fifth consecutive year without profit

By Andrew Kersley

The Evening Standard reported a pre-tax loss of £14m in 2021 in its fifth consecutive year in the red.

While the pre-tax loss is lower than the £17m it posted last year, this year’s results mean the newspaper has lost a total of almost £70m over the past five years.

Turnover declined by 36% in the 53 weeks to 3 October 2021 from £44m to £28m, according to the latest Companies House filings for Evening Standard Ltd.

The free newspaper last made a profit in 2016 and has been badly hit by a decline in print advertising and Covid’s impact on its distribution model to commuters, but has put “significant investment” into a digital-first strategy. It also experimented by introducing home delivery to readers for the first time during the pandemic.

Majority-owned by Russian-British businessman Evgeny Lebedev, the Evening Standard is heavily reliant on advertising, which continues to make up 90% of its revenue.

The newspaper had a distribution of 453,483 in May according to ABC, which is almost half its size before the pandemic first hit the UK.

It enacted cuts to staff during the pandemic that saw its employees fall from 320 to 236 in the 53 weeks to 3 October last year. The redundancies saw the size of the newsroom shrink by around 40%. Total staff costs in 2021 dropped to £16m from £21m.

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The publisher's revenue from events also declined between 2020 and 2021, with the company netting £1.1m from events compared to £1.2m the year before, although Covid-19 restrictions began to ease in 2021. The report accompanying the accounts said the brand is planning to launch new live events this year.

The company's highest-paid director, whose identity does not have to be disclosed in Companies House filings, saw their base remuneration increase from £336,000 in 2020 to £483,000 in 2021.

A spokesperson for the Evening Standard said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns continued to cause significant challenges across the media sector throughout 2020/2021, including an industry-wide reduction in advertising revenue and a reduction in people travelling by public transport in London.

"Against this testing backdrop, The Evening Standard has enacted robust cost control and continued to diversify its revenue model to help shape the future of the company.

"This has included significant investment in a digital-first model, and new product development including a premium live events platform to address evolving audience and partner needs.

"Guided by a constant commitment to outstanding journalism, The Evening Standard continues to play a vital role at the heart of London.”

The results came after a tumultuous year for the newspaper in which, already struggling with its recovery after Covid, editor Emily Sheffield departed the paper after just 15 months in charge.

Sheffield, the sister-in-law of former Prime Minister David Cameron, took over from former Chancellor George Osborne as the Evening Standard editor in June 2020, but left by "mutual consent" in October 2021.

Lebedev also owns the digital-only Independent, which doubled its operating profit to £5.5m in 2021, the fifth year in a row it grew profits,  according to its accounts from February.

Picture: Reuters/Hannah Mckay

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