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April 17, 2018

The i made £9.3m in first full year of trading with Johnston Press as publisher’s chief exec hails improving print ad market

By Freddy Mayhew

The i paper made £9.3m in its first full financial year under Johnston Press, but not even this “exceptional performance” by the national daily could stop earnings and profit at the publisher from falling last year.

JP, publisher of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, reported adjusted profit before tax down 19 per cent to £14.2m in 2017. Its adjusted earnings (EBITDA) were also down 9 per cent on the previous year to £40.1m.

Total adjusted revenue was down 4.5 per cent to £201.2m.

Total adjusted advertising revenue (combining print and digital) at JP was down 12 per cent to £100m, with adjusted print advertising (excluding classified ads) down 7 per cent to £48.8m.

But, adjusted digital advertising (excluding classified ads) was up 13 per cent to £20m.

There has also been growth in adjusted circulation revenue, which was up 3 per cent on 2016 to £79m, an increase in cover price to 60p and the launch of the i Weekend last year having likely contributed to the rise.

Adjusted classified advertising (print and digital) and other advertising revenue for the period was £31.2m, down from £43.6m in 2016, and represented 16 per cent of total adjusted revenue in 2017.

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The i newspaper, which was sold to JP in April 2016, more than doubled its adjusted earnings – up from £3.3m to £7.6m – when compared year-on-year over a 38-week period.

Its adjusted earnings (EBITDA) for 2017 were £9.3m.

The title also claims a 20 per cent share of the quality weekday newspaper market, according to JP’s financial results for 2017, which have been published today.

In a statement accompanying its figures, JP said that the overall “trading environment remains challenging”, but that there had been “some improvement in the national print advertising market”.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: “Across our regional portfolio of titles national print advertising tracked in line with prior year in the first quarter of 2018, with advertisers starting to increase spend in regional print.

“This trend is driven by a somewhat stronger overall advertising market, our ability to precisely target audiences using ‘big data’, and improving sentiment towards quality print publishers in the wake of the ‘fake news’ and social media trust concerns.

“Classified advertising remains weak, but is now a significantly smaller portion of the group accounting for just 13 per cent of revenues in the quarter, following our investment in digital and the i.

“Whilst operationally the business is performing well in challenging markets, addressing the group’s capital structure remains a key priority.”

JP said it expected to see “continued pressure on revenues” and hinted at further possible cuts, saying there would be a “requirement for cost savings”.

It said: “…We are focused on maintaining our strong margins, driving additional growth from i and realising further operational and financial synergies. During 2018 we will continue to selectively invest in the business, with a focus on digital, journalists, and content generation.”

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