Declining value of classified websites and Sun Sunday launch cost Trinity Mirror £72m

  • Operating profit up 2.5 per cent
  • Simon Fox outlines vision for merger of national and regional divisions
  • More part free, part paid-for intitiatives planned in regions
  • Tribute paid to Lloyd Embley for Daily Mirror circulation performance

Regional and national press group Trinity Mirror today reported revenue down 7.1 per cent to £706.5m but adjusted operating profit up by 2.5 per cent to £107.1m.

Cost cuts and some digital growth helped keep the operating profit figure buoyant.

The pre-tax profit dropped 75 per cent to £18.9m after Trinity judged that its specialist recruitment and property business had lost £60m of its value. These are sites including fish4jobs and SmartNewHomes.

Trinity said that the launch of The Sun Sunday had hit circulation revenues of the Sunday Mirror by £12m.

Although advertising and circulation revenues fell by 10.4 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively, chief executive Simon Fox said the circulation performance of the Daily Mirror was a highlight of the year.

Trinity cut around 75 journalists from its national titles in 2012 (after cutting 200 editorial staff in 2010). Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace and Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver were both made redundant in May and People editor Lloyd Embley was made group editor-in-chief of the national titles.

Fox, who became chief executive in October, said: “In a national tabloid newspaper market that was down by 8.3 per cent during 2012, the Daily Mirror’s circulation was down by 6.6 per cent. It outperformed the market for ten out of the 12 months of the year.

“Our excellent editorial team, led by editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley, should take great pride in this achievement.”

Trinity also noted that it has reduced its debt by £227.2m over the past four years and plans to repay another £98.7m over the next 15 months.

‘Contracted net debt’ is said to have fallen by £64.2m to £157m over the last year – even after an investment of £14.2m in Local World, the new group formed out of the Northcliffe and Iliffe local newspaper titles.

Digital revenues across the group grew by £3.2 million to £40.8 million, Trinity said.

Explaining the decision to merge the national and regional newspaper businesses, Fox said: “Our regional papers are largely situated in major metropolitan cities where significant national news  and sport happens. Whether it be the cover-up at Hillsborough, the hunt in Wales for missing five-year-old April Jones or the shooting of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in Manchester – our regional journalists are at the scene first and are best placed to provide context and detail to these stories.

“However, their content was often not being used by our national titles so we are introducing closer working between the national and regional titles, with more content being  shared across all of Trinity Mirror's newspapers and digital platforms.

“It was evident that a more joined-up approach across our publishing operations  ould not only be more cost efficient  but would also result in higher quality content for our national and regional readers and a better service for  advertisers. No other media organisation has the regional and national coverage that we have.”

Fox said that plans for the year ahead include more hybrid part free, part paid-for newspapers, more use of centrally-produced content in regional weekend editions, and more localised editions for the big regional titles (such as the North and South Manchester editions of the MEN).

All regional titles will have new e-editions by the end of the summer and 30 of the top websites are to be relaunched.

Fox said: “These sites will include enhanced image galleries and video;  comprehensive What’s On guides; weather; traffic and travel; quizzes and elements of news personalisation.

“The most recent example of this site is the Manchester Evening News, which re-launched in January, and saw page views up 45 per cent year on  year in the first 2 weeks of February.”

He said 2013 will be difficult, with more revenue decline – but he predicted a slowing in the rate of decline in the second half of the year.

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