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October 4, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:38am

Profit boost for Spectator as subscriptions growth cures pandemic ills for title

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Spectator more than doubled its pre-tax profits in 2020 as a 40% boost to subscriber numbers balanced out challenges to other parts of the business from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pre-tax profits at The Spectator (1828) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Barclays’ Press Holdings parent company, which also owns the Telegraph group, grew from £666,000 in 2019 to £1.6m.

The company grew subscriptions to both its weekly print edition and paywalled website.

The company directors recommended paying no dividend and transferring the profit from the 2020 financial year into reserves.

Turnover was up 15% to £16.3m, primarily due to circulation revenue growth resulting from subscription volume and price increases.

According to The Spectator’s latest circulation data, broken down here by the publisher but not yet audited by ABC, it sold an average of 105,850 copies in the first half of 2021 (excluding 5,098 paid trial subscriptions such as £12 for 12 issues offers).

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Including these trial subscriptions, 70,319 were print and digital bundle subscriptions, 33,125 were digital-only subscriptions, 7,356 were newsstand sales and 148 were digital-only one-off purchases.

The company's plan to continue growing turnover focuses on developing its digital products so it can further boost circulation revenues from subscription sales.

Newsstand sales fell by 23% in the year, advertising sales fell by 17% and physical events were also impacted by Covid - although sponsorship was transferred to podcast, virtual events and the new online TV show The Week in 60 Minutes which launched last September.

The company's 2020 accounts, published on Companies House, state: "These losses in turnover have been compensated by a 40% increase in subscriber numbers by the year end, resulting in an overall increase in revenues."

UK revenue grew from £13.1m in 2019 to £14.8m and US revenue was up from £16,000 to £294,000 following the launch of a website dedicated to North American audiences in 2018, a monthly US print edition in October 2019, and further expansion in 2020.

Editorial staff numbers grew from 24 to 29 and other staff remained on 41.

The company, which also publishes art magazine Apollo, said it had invested "significantly" in its editorial, digital and marketing departments during 2020.

The Spectator initially made use of the Government's coronavirus job retention scheme but paid back the money in full in June 2020 as chairman Andrew Neil said although the company had faced some financial challenges it was "nothing as bad as I feared".

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