Johnston Press: Ad revenues in freefall behind a PR smokescreen

You’ve got to laugh at the trading statement issued by Johnston Press this morning.

The last we heard from Tim Bowdler & Co, ad revenues fell by 19.7% during July. The company also disclosed that ad revenues fell by 23% during the first three weeks of August.

You’d presume that the company might give us an update on trading during August, September and October. They have — but the information that’s divulged in JP’s press release is partial, to say the least.

It’s also couched in some of the most convoluted language I think I’ve ever seen in a financial release.

(As if that wasn’t enough, JP’s webcast doesn’t include any of the tricky questions that were presumably asked by analysts at the end of this morning’s session. Perhaps the intention was to avoid a repeat of this.)

In any event, shoving these obstacles aside, here’s what I’ve been able to make of the numbers.

As I say, JP’s press release doesn’t divulge a YOY percentage decline for overall ad revenue declines between July/August and October.

To get hold of this, you needed to listen to the webcast of Johnston Press’s presentation to analysts this morning.

This was something that most reporters couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do. Instead, working off the back of JP’s press release, reporters tended to use the quoted figure for JP’s ad revenue declines since the start of the financial year — 15.5%.

Listen to the webcast, however, and you’ll discover that 15.5% doesn’t begin to describe what’s currently happening to JP’s revenue base.

In fact, during the 17 weeks between early July and the end of October, JP’s ad revenues slumped by “just over 24%” YOY. That’s a whole lot worse for July (a decline of 19.7%).

Today’s coverage of JP’s trading statement looked fairly grim. Only some canny management on the part of JP’s PR handlers stopped the stories from sounding a whole lot worse.

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