Blog Post

Scorecard ’09: UK’s Top Regional Papers Have Lost Half A Billion In Sales

We said 2009 would be an annus horribilis for newspapers – and that’s exactly what happened.

Total annual revenue at just five of the UK’s leading regional newspaper groups fell from £2.05 billion to £1.54 billion through 2009, according to our calculations now that the results are in. That’s £509.7 million wiped off our local publishers during the downturn year.

How did they respond? By removing an average 15 percent of their costs to protect profitability. The year saw £196.3 million in cuts, from the four out of five publishers which gave details (Newsquest parent *Gannett* didn’t give a specific number).

Outsourcing and partnership were the trends du jour. But staff bore the brunt – most groups put a fifth of their workers on the bonfire, about 5,000. Johnston Press’ more modest cuts, though, means the average lay-off rate was a marginally more charitable 17.7 percent.

Publishers continue 2010 still in a cost-cutting mood, with the outlook easing and eager for new income streams. But, having knee-capped their own businesses so hard already, are they fit enough for innovating to find a cure?

Here are the depressing details…

Trinity Mirror

— Operating profit down 47.4 percent to £35.9 million.
— Revenue down 23.5 percent to £302.9 million.
— Operating margin down 5.3 percent to 11.9 percent.

— Digital sales up 38.3 percent – uniques up 11 percent to seven million.
— Digital now 10.2 percent of revenue, 18.4 percent of operating profit.

— Sold 30 unprofitable newspapers, cut 1,700 group staff (20 percent), cut group-wide costs by £67.9 million (9.3 percent) to £658.4 million.

Newsquest

— Revenue down 26 percent to $563 million.
— Advertising income (74 percent of total) down 32 percent.
— Digital sales down 20 percent, banner sales up 23 percent – six million monthly uniques.

— Cut 23 percent of costs. Closed unprofitable papers, outsourced printing, slimmed own print presses from 11 to six.
— Cut headcount by 23 percent (1,500) to 5,100, offered furloughs (unpaid leave)

— Owns half of Fish4Jobs, and S1 jobs site.

Northcliffe Media

— Operating profit down 64.7 percent to £24 million.
— Revenue down 21.9 percent to £328 million.
— Margin down from 16 percent to seven percent.

— UK ad sales down 30 percent.
— Circulation revenue down seven percent to £70 million. Daily and weekly ABC (NYSE: DIS) circs fell eight or nine percent, in line with industry average.
— Online ad income didn’t move (£17 million) – uniques up 31 percent to 4.4 million.

— Cut a “massive” £53 million, including staff by 1,131 (20 percent, £17 million) to 4,256, production and distribution by £22 million. More savings coming in 2010.
— Closed three print plants, consolidated subbing, outsourced national sales- now a “much lower cost operating model”.

Archant

— Operating profit down 32 percent to £15.1 million
— Revenue down 19 percent to £142 million, ad sales down 29.5 percent.

— Digital revenue up 25.2 percent – monthly uniques up 36.6 percent.
— Cut 17.1 percent (£26.1 million) off costs.
— Cut 18.7 percent of staff, reducing staff costs by 15.4 percent.

— Pension fund deficit of £30.5 million.

Johnston Press

— Revenue down 19.5 percent (£103.9 million) to £428 million.
— Operating loss improved from £399.7 million to £90.6 million.
— Operating margin down from 24.1 percent to 16.8 percent.
— Digital revenue down 11.1 percent to £17.1 million.

— Ad sales 26.5 percent (£96.4 million) lower at £272 million, circulation income down 1.8 percent.
— Weekly paper sales down 4.6 percent in second half, dailies down 6.3 percent. Monthly web uniques up 11.6 percent

— Knocked out 12.2 percent of costs (£49.3 million). Outsourcing web platforms, ie. online job ads to Jobsite.
— Cut staff by 438 (6.8 percent) to 5,969.