Johnston Press revenue down 13.7%

Newspaper publisher Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, said on Wednesday that daily print sales of its recently-acquired i newspaper peaked at 297,849 in April, an increase of 7% over March peaks.

Johnston, which completed the acquisition of the i newspaper on April 10, said in a trading update ahead of its annual general meeting that it launched the newspaper into Northern Ireland on May 10.

It said that its site launched on April 14, reaching 638,000 unique users in the first month and consuming 1.8 million page views.

But the trading update revealed a mixed performance across the wider group at Johnston.

For the 17 week period from January 3 to April 30, group revenue fell by 13.7% on an adjusted basis, “reflecting a 14.4% decline in the first quarter and an improved rate of decline of 11.5% in April.”

“Advertising revenues for the period were down 16.9%, following a 17.9% decline in Q1 against strong year-on-year comparatives but with an improved rate of decline of 13.2% in April,” said Johnston.

“Digital revenues were down 5.7% in Q1 but up 4.5% in April.

“This reflected two contrasting trends: although digital employment revenues were down 22.8% in the period, digital display and transaction revenues were up 5.8% in Q1 and 15.6% in April, driven by strong growth in 1XL and Google ad word sales.

“Digital audience grew by 22.7% on average year on year to 24.1 million unique users in April 2016.”

Johnston said the sector has continued to experience challenging trading conditions and volatility in the advertising market in the first quarter, which began to show signs of improvement in April.

“At this point, the board expects performance for the full year to be within the range of market expectation,” said the firm.

“The group has continued to invest in relaunching websites for our primary titles including rolling out 15 new fully responsive, mobile-first platforms giving users a better, faster experience on any device.

“Over half of the total audience visiting JP news sites now view content on a responsive site …

“Following the completion of the i acquisition, we continue to explore the disposal of certain assets, with a view to deleveraging the balance sheet and further reducing financing costs.”