Sentinel owner grows digital by 32% year-on-year

THE owner of the Sentinel, Derry Journal and Belfast Newsletter claims good progress was achieved in its multi-platform media business in the 18 weeks up to November 2.

Johnston Press, which also owns titles as diverse as the Limerick Leader, The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post issued its interim management statement as the Sentinel generated more revenue for the company on Wednesday (November 13). Operating profit was up 7.8 per cent on 2012 and the operating margin improved to 20 per cent. Digital growth was strong with revenue up 32 per cent year on year for the period and up 44.7 per cent in October. The firm says group titles’ recent transitions to new look websites will provide a robust platform for future digital growth.

In terms of news consumption by readers the total monthly average aggregate audience over the 18 week period grew by 7 per cent to 25.3m with continuing strong growth in monthly digital unique users (up 39 per cent year on year to 13.7m in October).

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The Londonderry Sentinel (in terms of digital audience growth) has been amongst the strongest performers in Ireland within the group.

Across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, however, all of this has been achieved at a cost, however, with labour and other overheads slashed by £30m group-wide in the year to date.

Worryingly for staff, reductions to Johnston Press’ outgoings will continue, the statement indicates.

The firm says cost base reductions continued with total costs down 10 per cent year on year for the period. That’s a £30m reduction in the year to date.

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Johnston Press, Chief Executive, Ashley Highfield, said cost reductions will continue in order to facilitate investment in the digital aspect of the firm’s operations.

Cutting the company’s debt is also a key continuing priority.

The company achieved a 5 per cent year on year and further progress is planned

Mr Highfield said: “I am pleased to report that our growth strategy is making good progress and has delivered encouraging results in the period. Digital revenue growth remains a priority and the Midlands reaching a ‘Tipping Point’ in local display advertising is a highlight for the business.

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“It remains a key goal for the whole Group to reach the point where digital growth will offset any further decline so we can return to overall top-line growth.

“With the refreshed print titles and websites, averaging monthly audiences of over 25m, and new digital products and services, we believe that Johnston Press remains as relevant to local communities and advertisers, both local and national as it has ever been.

“We also continue to focus on reducing our cost base whilst increasing our investment in our digital future.”

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