Profit dip for Johnston - but ad decline slowing

Regional press giant Johnston Press has announced operating profit down 4.8 per cent year-on-year to £96.7 million on turnover up 0.1 per cent to £312.8 million for the first six months of this year.

The profit margin of 30.9 per cent is still the highest of any of the big UK regional newspaper players – but slightly down on the 32.6 per cent figure achieved in the same period last year.

Advertising revenues were down 1.5 per cent but the rate of decline in UK print advertising has slowed dramatically, from 9.2 per cent to 2.9 per cent year-on-year this period.

Digital revenues were up 33.5 per cent with unique users of the various Johnston websites up 31 per cent to 7.9 million per month.

Revenue from newspaper sales was up 0.5 per cent – compensating for reduced circulations.

Chief executive Tim Bowdler: ”The month of July has seen a continuation of the improving month-on-month advertising trends in the UK. Costs remain under good control and new publishing initiatives, especially in the digital area, continue to produce strong growth, albeit from a small base.”

He said: “Our strategy of launching new print publications to layer our markets, thereby extending audience reach, continued throughout the first half and included the

launch of 68 community newsletters in both urban and rural areas.

‘We have continued to make excellent progress in our digital publishing operations which also play an essential part in achieving our objective of reaching a growing audience in all our local communities.”

He said the roll-out of the ‘newsroom of the future’at all daily and larger weekly centres has now been completed. This has involved training of journalists in web and multimedia techniques and investment in more web video technology.

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