February 1, 2018 / 8:27 AM / a year ago

Newspaper publisher Johnston Press full-year revenue falls five percent

(Reuters) - Newspaper publisher Johnston Press Plc JPR.L said on Thursday its full-year revenue fell 5 percent as weakness in its print business clouded digital revenue growth.

The newspaper industry has struggled in recent years as advertisers have migrated to online platforms, forcing several print publishers including Trinity Mirror TNI.L and Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGOa.L) to cut costs.

Johnston Press, which publishes the Scotsman, said its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization was in line with its expectations, helped partly by cost cuts and growth in its digital business.

“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,” Chief Executive Ashley Highfield said.

The company said it would hire 32 journalists funded by the BBC, and 21 editorial staff and 10 specialist digital sales staff as it looks to grow its digital business.

Digital revenue from continuing operations, excluding classified categories, was up 14 percent, while digital audience increased 13 percent to an average of 25.4 million unique browsers per month.

Total publishing revenue, which includes total advertising and newspaper circulation revenue, from continuing operations fell 6 percent year on year.

Johnston Press, which has over 200 titles across the country, acquired “i”, the cut-price sister paper of The Independent, for 24 million pounds last year to tap into its growing circulation revenue and advertising base.

The “I” newspaper circulation revenue rose 19 percent and advertising rose 26 percent in the second half on a like-for-like basis, Johnston Press said.

The 250-year-old company has been in a battle with activist investor Custos Group, which is looking to oust interim Chairman Camilla Rhodes and Michael Butterworth as directors.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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