Trinity Mirror: Profits Up, Revenues Down. Mulls Paid Content

Trinity Mirror’s acquisition of GMG Regional Media helped boost earnings for the UK publisher, but overall revenues were broadly flat and sent the company’s stock down. Looking for new sources for earnings, Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) is even contemplating some form of paid content for certain operations, an option that Sly Bailey raised during earnings a year ago.

Highlights from today’s earnings:

Paid Content: On a conference call about the earnings (transcribed by Media Week), Bailey reiterated plans to explore paid-content for niche products such as business coverage, but not mainstream general news. “We can see consumers may pay for niche, high-value content”, with “zero propensity” to pay for general news. Regional sites for papers like the Liverpool Echo and the Birmingham Post, as well as national titles like the Mirror, will remain ad-funded.

Digital revenues in regionals: Revenues in the regionals division increased by by 9.3 percent to £331.2 million, with the acquisition of GMG Regional Media partly offsetting the underlying decline in revenues. In 2010 digital activities represented 9.8 percent of revenue (£32.4 million) and 18.2 percent of operating profit (£9.4 million) for the division. Within recruitment, property and motors — which are around one-third of the company’s advertising revenues — 26.1% of revenues came from digital, with recruitment websites in particular returning to growth in 2010. The impact on the division from these categories is much reduced and they are well placed to benefit from a combination of cyclical recovery and any structural changes when market conditions improve. In recent months our national recruitment websites have returned to growth. Trinity Mirror forecasts that digital will account for around 45 percent of all recruitment advertising revenue in 2011.

Digital in nationals: The company is embarking on strategy of paid-for apps for a number of its titles but in the last year digital revenues in the nationals division declined by £0.1 million from £4.8 million to £4.7 million. Trinity Mirror says that this was due to a decline in Bingo revenues that were mostly offset by gains in other areas. Average monthly uniques grew to 10.7 million per month, a growth of 21 percent compared to 2009.

Group digital revenue: This includes advertising and other revenue and it increased by £1.5 million from £35.6 million to £37.1 million. But if you take out GMG Regional Media, that figure actually fell by £0.7 million from £35.6 million to £34.9 million. Trinity Mirror says the decline was due to continuing declines in recruitment and property advertising revenues. Motors and directors have grown but enough to make up the difference. Average monthly uniques grew by 19 percent over 2009 and now stand at 21.6 million for 2010.

— Overall results: Nearly flat revenues of £761.5 million; Operating profit up by 17.0 percent to £123.3 million.