Stevie Spring: 'God bless Rupert Murdoch'

Future chief executive Stevie Spring has warned that despite growing profits at her company, the wider economic picture for the media business is looking far from “benign”.

Spring spoke to Press Gazette in the wake of half-year results for her company yesterday which revealed group operating profit up to £3m, from £2.6m in the same period a year ago, on turnover down seven per cent to £71.4m for the period.

Asked whether she thinks the media business is out of the woods yet in terms of the economic downturn, she said: ‘I think if you look at the results of Future it is clear that we have come out of the last annus horribulus in better shape then we went into it….

“On a macro level, you look at the debt mountain, at the fragility of the economy, new complexity in Government, the planned spending cuts…It’s hard on a macro level to think the market place is going to be anywhere near approaching benign in the next couple of years.”

Spring said her company would consider buying titles from IPC, the magazine giant which is currently undertaking a strategic review. IPC revealed in April that it may sell off some of its smaller titles.

Admitting that Future was looking at IPC’s stable of titles, she said: ‘I would put the BBC in that as well”.

The BBC revealed in April that it was mulling a sell-off of its magazines division.

She said: ‘Clearly the answer is we look at everything that comes up, but we don’t have any strategic must-haves. We are not going to pay a premium for anything.”

Noting that Future currently has little debt, she said: ‘We are in very robust financial health and the balance sheet is strong.”

On the online paywall debate, Spring said that Future has found that different strategies work well in different markets. She said that brands such as Tech Radar were doing well with a free to air policy while other sites were making money from selling content online.

Looking at News International‘s plan to charge for content online across The Times and Sunday Times from next month, she said: ‘I really hope it works but thinks the chances of it working are remote.”

She said that the issue of whether or not to charge for content online was ‘horses for courses”, and depended on the particular market. ‘It’s important to have as many different revenue streams as possible. We are all experimenting at the moment. God Bless Rupert Murdoch for doing this experiment on our behalf.”

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