'Rapid growth' online fails to offset print decline as Scottish Herald and Times group reports fall in profits

The Newsquest-owned Herald and Times group’s profits fell in the last financial year, with “rapid growth” online failing to offset print decline.

The group, which publishes the Herald, the Evening Times, the Sunday Herald and the Scottish Farmer, reports that pre-tax profits were at £9.2m in the year to 29 December, down from £12m the year before.

It said the Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow, and the independence referendum had provided a “boost” for the current year but pointed to the “difficult conditions in the newspaper market in 2013”.

The group said its turnover fell 5.7 per cent to £53.8m and operating profit fell from £12m to £9.1m “as the company took steps to reduce costs and restructure processes to head off weaker revenues”.

Managing director Tim Blott said: “Difficult trading conditions in our newspapers business saw a reduction in operating profit last year.

“Our internet operations are rapidly gaining audience and paid-for subscribers, but not enough in 2013 to mitigate the print revenue decline.

“Our magazines division continued to grow, but our printing business saw margins under pressure.”

He added: “The Herald and Sunday Herald, both in print and online, have seen substantial and sustained growth in circulation and audience during the Commonwealth Games and more particularly the recent referendum, where we saw print sales rise by up to 110 per cent.”

In June, the Herald claimed to have surpassed the 10,000 mark for online subscribers three years after launching its metered paywall.

The Newsquest-owned title today said its overall paid-for readership had increased in the year to June 2014, attributing this success to the “digital only” and “combination digital and print” packages on offer.

In January the Herald and Times Group revealed that it had more digital subscribers than print subscribers, number around 5,500, for the first time.

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