Johnston Press hails rise in digital income

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Media group Johnston Press yesterday said its annual underlying profits were in line with expectations amid a rise in digital revenues.

The Edinburgh-based owner of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday said underlying digital revenues grew 12 per cent in the 52-week period ending 2 January. The number of unique users visiting its websites has grown to 22.6 million.

In a trading update ahead of its full-year results, the group said total revenues fell 7 per cent year-on-year, with publishing revenues down 8 per cent and print advertising revenues 12 per cent lower.

Johnston Press, which also owns the Edinburgh Evening News, Yorkshire Post and scores of local newspapers and websites, told investors: “Digital audience growth remains a priority and the number of unique users has grown to 22.6 million in December 2015.”

The firm, which is led by chief executive Ashley Highfield, also told investors that it was exploring the sale of some brands.

“As part of the group’s portfolio review, a number of brands have been identified that are not part of its long-term future, as they fall outside its selected markets, or do not match the audience focus, or do not offer the levels of digital growth sought by the group,” the firm said.

Analysts at Liberum initiated coverage of JP with a “buy” rating, noting: “Management have demonstrated cost control, demand for trusted online audiences is growing and print’s role in the media advertising model is being more appreciated.”