National World says it saw 25% digital revenue growth in 2022 despite a slow second half of the year.
In its pre-close trading update for the year to 31 December 2022, the company said it was on track to pay off its debts and reiterated its hopes of making more acquisitions.
Revenue for full year 2022, the company said, is “expected to be not less than £84m, underpinned by robust digital revenue growth of 25% with print revenue declining 7% compared with the previous year”.
In its pre-close trading update for 2021, in comparison, National World reported expected revenues of about £85m – itself down from £88.2m the year previous.
Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in 2022 is predicted to be no less than £9.4m, an increase on £9.2m the previous year.
The 2022 print decline comprised a 6% advertising revenue and a 9% circulation revenue drop, each of which National World attributed to “subdued consumer confidence in the UK economy because of rising inflation and interest rates”.
Digital revenue growth lagged in the second half of 2022 “at 12% as a consequence of market and audience volatility, combined with the impact of changes to Google’s search algorithm”. But the business said the half also saw “stronger yields and increased video advertising”.
National World chairman David Montgomery said: “We have accelerated the group’s transformation into a premium content and sales business across all platforms in 2022.
“We continue to launch new products, invest in organic growth, enhance heritage assets and streamline our infrastructure to create further efficiencies.”
The company says it saw a substantial cash boost over the year, growing from £4m to £27m. In 2022 it paid off a first tranche of £2.5m due in exchange for the assets of JPI Media; National World says it expects to pay the second and final £2.5m tranche this year, as well as £1m of loan notes, at which point it will be debt free.
As well as these, the company says it has delivered “targeted annualised cost savings in excess of £4m, with restructuring costs of approximately £3m” over the year.
In line with predictions National World made in its August half-year interim results, the company said on Tuesday it expected to recommend a dividend in March when it releases its audited results for the full year.
Looking ahead, National World emphasised that it is aiming to digitise its operations and “deepen engagement with customers across a wider content agenda”, accompanied by “new products for advertisers to attract sustainable, long-term revenues”.
The company also reiterated it is continuing to look for acquisition opportunities, “primarily targeting businesses that will enhance the group’s digital capability”.
In December National World acquired football publisher Scoop Dragon and short form video startup News Chain in a bid to “develop new formats and increase the size of its customer base”.
Montgomery said in his statement that the acquisitions “immediately increased National World’s online audience by over 10%”.
National World had considered putting an offer in for Reach in November, but decided the circumstances were not right even though there would have been “considerable industrial and financial advantages” to merging their newspaper portfolios.
Other operational highlights in the year included an investment of $1.25m in Will Lewis and Kamal Ahmed’s social-first youth publisher The News Movement, which is now helping National World produce social and website content aimed at a younger audience, and the launch of a US version of nationalworld.com.
As well as its namesake National World website which brings together stories from across its regional titles, National World publishes “Metro World” titles covering the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, London and Newcastle. Encapsulating the former JPI Media brands, the company also owns legacy newspapers such as the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.
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