Audience numbers on the rise at Johnston Press

Ashley Highfield said profit margins had been maintained. Picture: Malcolm Irving
Ashley Highfield said profit margins had been maintained. Picture: Malcolm Irving
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Johnston Press, the publishing group that owns The Scotsman, has hailed growing audience figures across its portfolio after confirming that underlying profits are in line with expectations.

In a trading update, the group, which also owns the Edinburgh Evening News, the Yorkshire Post and scores of local newspapers and websites, revealed that digital revenues from continuing operations, excluding classified categories, were up 14 per cent in the 52 weeks to 30 December.

It said digital audience growth remains a “strategic priority”, with the number of unique users increasing to an average of 25.4 million unique browsers per month, a 13 per cent increase on the year before.

Web traffic, measured by page views, at the Edinburgh Evening News was up 39 per cent, year-on-year.

The firm said newspaper circulation revenue from continuing operations was up 2 per cent, benefiting from the full-year effect of the i newspaper, acquired in April 2016.

Total publishing revenues from continuing operations were down 6 per cent year-on-year, or 13 per cent excluding the i paper. Talks regarding the group’s refinancing were ongoing, Johnston Press added.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: “A slowing down of top line decline is encouraging while further growth in our audiences and digital revenues, underpinned by additional cost reduction, enabled us to maintain profit margins.”

Analysts at Liberum issued a buy note pointing to a “solid” trading update.