Highfield hails 'encouraging' sales of daily to weekly titles

Newspaper publisher Johnston Press has told shareholders the five daily titles that converted to weeklies last week have seen a 77 per cent sales increase compared with their average daily sales.

At the company’s annual general meeting today, chief executive Ashley Highfield presented the initial sales figures of the Scarborough Evening News, Halifax Courier, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Peterborough Evening Telegraph and Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph.

Shareholders were told the weekly relaunches achieved an average increase in sales of 77 per cent compared with the average daily sale, and that the titles had reported year-on-year sales declines of around 10 per cent as dailies (scroll down for official ABC figures).

Highfield said ‘these deficits have been reversed with an underlying swing of over 93 per cent against recent figures”, adding: ‘With an impressive sales swing of 102 per cent, the Scarborough News has clearly retained existing purchasers and also attracted new readers…”

Johnston said that early figures for its relaunched weeklies were ‘similarly positive”.

‘These titles averaged increased sales of 8 per cent against the pre-relaunch figures,’the company said.

‘As with the dailies, the local weekly newspaper sector also has a backdrop of circulation decline and these sales improvements reflect an overall swing in sale of 16 per cent.

‘Importantly, many of these titles were relaunched with increased cover prices. For example, the West Sussex County Times relaunched at a higher price and still recorded increased sales of 19 per cent, against a previous decline rate of 9 per cent, a swing of 28 per cent.”

Highfield added: ‘While we obviously have to be cautious in extrapolating trends from the initial week post relaunch we are convinced that the relaunch programme will significantly benefit group circulation revenues.

‘We will be paying close attention to the trends established over the medium term and will update the market as appropriate.”

Here are the most recent ABC figures (and percentage change year on year) for July-December 2011 for five new Johnston weeklies:

  • Scarborough Evening News : 10,637 ; -7.2%
  • Halifax Courier : 15,046 ; -8.0%
  • Northampton Chronicle & Echo : 15,913 ; -4.6%
  • Peterborough Evening Telegraph : 14,883 ; -4.0%
  • Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph – Kettering : 17,857 ; -6.3%

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