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National World has cut one in four jobs since JPI takeover in 2021

National World revenue was down 4% in the first half of 2023.

By Charlotte Tobitt

National World has cut its workforce by 27% compared to the start of 2021 when it acquired all of the former JPI Media newspaper brands.

National World’s overall staff numbers are down from around 1,500 in January 2021 to 1,100, according to a half-year report published on Monday. The average across the whole of 2022 was 1,179.

The publisher claimed “productivity has increased as this reduced number now service around 20 new brands and five newly acquired businesses”.

The former JPI Media titles include The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post, Sheffield Star and Portsmouth’s The News. Since the acquisition, National World has also launched a number of digital-only city brands, such as London World and Manchester World, as well as a UK-wide news website also called National World.

National World has made five acquisitions in 2023 so far: the Rotherham Advertiser, B2B publisher Insider Media, digital football publisher Scoop Dragon, video-first and World of Women’s Sport publisher News Chain, and the 155-year-old Newry Reporter newspaper in Northern Ireland.

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The publisher said its new operating model, which is creating “fully automated and integrated print, online and video brands” including with the use of AI, will deliver £1.1m of savings in the second half of 2023, with around £2.5m of savings per year.

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The results statement said: “…the new model primarily focuses on sustaining our news brands in local markets by increasing reach and customer engagement. Investment in technology and platforms is well advanced and the first relaunches of fully automated and integrated print, online and video brands is expected this quarter.”

National World has spent £0.9m on cost reduction and restructuring in the half-year, compared to £1.3m in the same period in 2022.

Total restructuring costs across the whole of 2023 are expected to reach about £2m, with combined annualised costs savings of about £4m.

Most recently more than 25 National World journalists left the company on a voluntary or compulsory basis, of around 50 put at risk, in a restructure that affected numerous brands including the national website.

A separate round of restructuring last year saw around 30 journalist roles cut at the legacy ex-JPI titles, with a similar number created on the digital-only city brands.

Earlier this month National Union of Journalists members at National World passed a vote of no confidence in chairman David Montgomery.

National World half-year financial results

Overall, National World revenue was down 4% year-on-year to £41.6m in the first half of 2023.

However it saw improvement in the second quarter, when it was flat, compared to an 8% decline in Q1. It said its acquisitions had mitigated against further decline.

National World’s adjusted profit before tax was £3.2m, down 43%, which it attributed to “challenging trading conditions”, the 4% revenue decline, and higher operating costs.

The city brands and National World website are predicted to reach profitability in the second half of 2024.

Three-quarters (£31.7m) of National World revenue comes from its legacy local print newspaper titles, including digital packaged with print. This portion, down 8%, is almost evenly split between advertising (£14.6m) and circulation (£14.9m) revenues.

The half-year results include plans to automate the production of National World’s weekly titles, promising “purely local content”, and consolidate a “daily press unit to centrally relaunch eight titles in a modern format”.

Digital revenue, comprising all revenue sold programmatically, digital-led direct sales, subscriptions, syndication and revenue generated from Google and Meta initiatives, was up 9% year-on-year to £8.9m. Advertising is the biggest chunk (£5.6m).

Digital subscription revenue was flat year-on-year despite an 11% drop in subscribers. The publisher said premium subscribers for The Scotsman, which has seen a new paid app launch, together with the Yorkshire Post and News Letter in Belfast, which will soon see similar upgrades, were however up by 5%.

National World’s titles had combined average monthly page views of 141 million in the half-year, up 21% on the previous year.

The company said video was a particular area of growth, with training for 250 journalists. Video views were up 49% year-on-year to 275 million in total, with engagement up 12%, while video advertising revenues were up 67%.

Chairman Montgomery said the publisher is concentrating on a mixture of “acquisitions, consolidation and innovation”, with the first two components together expected to grow full-year revenues.

He said: “The investment to support new launches and organic development was maintained despite an advertising downturn and a decline in revenue. 

“The reliance on heritage print assets has begun to reduce as the business pivots towards a more diverse and dependable model through both acquisitions and continued growth in specific digital activities.

“Currently trends are more encouraging and the company is now well positioned to benefit from its investment in developing areas like video, subscriptions, apps and its new brands.”

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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.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
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  • Other C-Suite
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  • Head of Department/Function
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