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Print Newspaper Woes Continue in the UK

Another day, another story of falling revenues at a major UK news publisher

March 31, 2017 | Ad Spending

The print newspaper industry in the UK is ailing.

In January, eMarketer reported on falling circulation figures for the UK’s national dailies, and in February about print media advertising looking likely to suffer in 2017. eMarketer’s own media ad spend forecasts published earlier this month further highlight falling ad revenues for newspapers in the region.

Recent financial results from a major UK news publisher continue the narrative.

Johnston Press is one of the biggest players in the local and regional news publishing space in the UK, with a portfolio of over 200 print news titles and an even larger number of digital properties. On Wednesday it announced a pre-tax revenue loss of £300 million ($405 million).

Noncash impairments accounted for much of the losses, but ad revenues were down across the board. In total, such revenues dropped 17.7% year over year.

Classifieds had the biggest impact on that figure, down 28%—Johnston rolled print and digital classifieds into one figure—but the print revenue loss was markedly larger than the digital loss: down 9.5% vs. 0.2%. But digital ad revenues are much less valuable to the company. They accounted for £18.6 million ($25.1 million) in 2016 against £61.3 million ($82.7 million) for print.

“While we can expect to see continued pressure on traditional print revenue streams, we have seen digital return to growth in Q1 2017,” Johnston CEO Ashley Highfield said in a statement. “By combining digital innovation with real news value, we will continue to see further growth in monetizable audiences.”

The company’s digital play is clearly a major focus, but volumes will need to grow substantially in this area if they are to have any long-term positive effect on the bottom line.

—Bill Fisher

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