Scotsman Publisher Reports Advertising Revenue Drop

The publisher of The Scotsman and several Scots local newspapers, Johnston Press, has reported a year-on-year drop in advertising revenue.

In an interim management statement published this morning, the newspapers group said that, for the 18 weeks up to the seventh of this month, its total advertising revenue – across print and digital – was 9.1 per cent down on the same period last year.

However, it did add: “Within this overall figure, we have seen an improvement from the Q1 [Jan-March] decline of 9.6 per cent to a slower decline of eight per cent for Q2 [April-June] to date.”

The statement continued: “While there was a year-on-year decline in classified print advertising revenues of 11.5 per cent for the first 18 weeks of 2012, the position has improved from a decline of 12.4 per cent in Q1 to an 8.9 per cent decline for Q2 to date.

“Within print classified, employment was the weakest performing category, down 16.2 per cent year-on-year for the 18 week period, but with the rate of decline in this category slowing from Q1 to Q2 to date: 18.3 per cent and nine per cent respectively.

“Print display advertising had a difficult start to the year, down 10.3 per cent year-on-year for the first 18 weeks of 2012. In recent weeks we have seen some encouraging signs in this category although display revenues remain volatile, reflecting the economic environment.

“Digital revenues have had an excellent start to the year, up 13.9 per cent in the first 18 weeks, and showed an improvement from Q1 (9.6 per cent) to Q2 to date (26.9 per cent). Online display, online employment, and the Find it directory business have all been drivers of this growth.”

The company also revealed that newspapers circulation was down two per cent year-on-year for the 18-week period, “with a slowing in the rate of decline of weekly circulation numbers”.

It also said “costs continue to be tightly controlled” and that it expects further cost savings to be achieved this year.

Net debt was £363.3million at the end of April.

The statement concluded: “The advertising outlook for the year remains volatile, but we anticipate that the strategy that the group has set out will provide benefits from the relaunches of all of the group’s paid-for titles during the year, along with continued improvement in digital performance throughout 2012. We expect that the results for the full year will be in line with market expectations.”

In a separate announcement, the company said it had “entered into an agreement with Motors.co.uk through which it will launch a new local, online motors platform powered by the UK's second-largest car search response network. The new motors platform will be integrated within each of Johnston's local websites and will carry the local website brand”.