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December 21, 2023

Tortoise Media reports growing losses of £4.6m in first full accounts

The company said the loss represented the costs of investing in the business.

By Bron Maher

“Slow news” outlet Tortoise Media made a £4.6m loss before tax in the year to 31 December 2022, its newly published accounts show. 

The figure represents a 45% increase on its losses in 2021 and means cumulated losses from 2019 to 2022 now stand at £16.3m.

In its Companies House filing for 2022 the publisher, which has focused on podcasts and audio for the last two years, said it had been “a year we decided to invest in the business and are confident this will enable us to achieve our goal of profitability”.

Those investments, which followed a £10m Series A fundraising at the end of 2021, were made in: staffing, the launch of its festival Kite and holding more of its “Responsible Business Forum” events. The business said it received a further £1.1m investment this month, but did not disclose where from.

Originally launched with an emphasis on longform stories, Tortoise has since pivoted much of its editorial focus into podcasting and events.

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In line with that shift, the company reported a 63% year-on-year growth in revenue from its audio work compared with 2021 and it said it “nearly tripled” revenue from the Responsible Business Forums – although no specific figures were given.

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The business also reported 21% growth in membership revenue, which it attributed in part to “the launch of our off-platform audio-only subscription Tortoise+ on Apple Podcasts”. Tortoise’s partial audio paywall gives subscribed listeners early access to episodes of its new podcast series.

[Read more: How Tortoise podcasts became the most profitable part of the ‘slow news’ start-up]

Tortoise predicts audience growth in news-averse demographics

The average number of employees at Tortoise in 2021 was 56 people, of whom 41 were in production. In 2022 the overall figure rose to 73 employees, 53 of whom were production staff. Private Eye reported in August that the company had made some redundancies.

The company generated some £6.24m of revenue in 2022, up 15% on the 2021 figure. However, costs rose even faster, up 26% to £10.83m. Tortoise retained cash at bank and in hand of nearly £4.3m at the end of the year, down from £10.3m at the end of 2021.

Looking ahead, the company said: “In the past couple of years we have seen the increasing proliferation of ‘free news’ which has suppressed consumer appetite to pay for news, which was further compounded by the cost of living crisis.

“We are confident that our distinctive approach to audio and digital journalism will continue to grow our audiences in demographics that are habitually not consuming news and current affairs content (we skew female and under 44).”

The filings are the first full accounts published by Tortoise Media. Previously it was exempted from audit as a small company, but it is now too large to qualify for the exemption under Companies House rules.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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