Johnston Press grows audience amid ‘challenging’ market

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Publishing group Johnston Press today said its digital audience grew by more than a fifth during the first half of the year, despite facing “challenging” market conditions and uncertainty over the Brexit vote.

Announcing its interim results, the Edinburgh-based owner of The Scotsman said its digital audience expanded by 22.4 per cent in the six months to 2 July, hitting a monthly average of 24.4 million.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield also pointed to the “transformational” £24 million acquisition earlier this year of the i newspaper, which has seen its average daily circulation grow 8.9 per cent to 294,233 since the deal in April.

READ MORE: Johnston Press hails record growth for i newspaper

He added: “Perhaps more significantly, owning the i newspaper is enabling us to present the whole Johnston Press portfolio, and the 1XL digital advertising network, to media buying agencies and clients afresh. Further, we have started to see significant content sharing between the i and the rest of the portfolio.

“The market continues to be challenging and uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has caused further softness in some segments of the advertising market, in June and July.”

Last month, Johnston Press struck a deal to sell its titles on the Isle of Man – comprising the Isle of Man Examiner, Isle of Man Courier and Manx Independent – to Tindle Newspapers for £4.25m in cash, and Highfield said talks over further disposals were “well advanced”.

His comments came as the group, which also owns the Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland on Sunday, Yorkshire Post and scores of local newspapers and websites, reported an adjusted operating profit of £22m for the first half, down from £26m a year earlier, on revenues 9.7 per cent lower at £113.9m.

Highfield said that the disposal plans, along with a revamp of its advertising business, would put Johnston Press on a “stronger footing for the future, focusing on key geographies, audiences segments and higher yielding advertisers, and will enable us to continue to reduce debt levels and cut financing costs further and prepare the business for refinancing due by 2019”.