Trinity Mirror has admitted that its regional titles are facing a “difficult” print advertising market as the group’s adjusted profits fell 2.5pc in the first half of the year.
Operating profits at the national and regional publisher were down from £50.3m in the first half of 2014 to £47.9m in the corresponding period this year, with overall revenues down from £324.2m to £288.5m.
Although digital revenues rose by 26pc to stand at £16.6pc, the company admitted that the “digital tipping point” at which the increase in digital revenues offsets the decline in print revenues had been “pushed out.”
In its half-yearly financial statement, the company said that the recently-closed web platforms UsVsTh3m and Ampp3 had provided “valuable lessons” for the business but had been “unable to generate advertising revenue.”
Commenting on the results, chief executive Simon Fox, pictured, said: “The print advertising environment has been more challenging than anticipated in the first half.
“As a result, whilst continuing to invest in people and technology to drive the ongoing growth in digital audience and revenue, we have taken further action to address our print cost base.
“I remain confident that our strategy will deliver sustainable growth in revenue and profit over the medium term despite the difficult print advertising market conditions.
“The actions we are taking in support of both our print and digital products provide the Board with confidence that profits for 2015 will be in line with expectations.”
Simon added that the company was still focussed on reaching the point at which digital growth would offset the decline of print.
“That tipping point is what we are focused on. With print advertising declining faster than we had expected, that tipping point is pushed out a bit,” he said.
In today’s interim report, the group said the market for our regional titles remains difficult with circulation declines of 12.5pc for paid for dailies, 14.1pc for paid for weeklies and 16.8pc for paid for Sundays. Whist we have individual titles performing well relative to the market, our overall trends remain challenging.
“Our regional titles continue to experience difficult advertising markets, particularly national advertising in our metropolitan titles,” it said.
Regional initiatives highlighted in the report include the launch of the Manchester Weekly News, Britain’s biggest free weekly newspaper, with a distribution of 265,000 across Greater Manchester.
Launched in April, it replaced six titles previously distributed across Manchester.
The report also referenced the launch of The Visiter, a new free newspaper replacing the Formby Times and the Crosby Herald, and the recent relaunch of the Liverpool Echo following the #TellAli consultation with readers.
“The new design is a significant change in format and layout compared to traditional newspapers and reflects the changing media consumption habits of our readers with less focus on crime, more reporting on things to do in the city and improved coverage of both football clubs in the region,” said the report.
The results also reveal that the group made £7m of cost savings in the first half of the year, due to increase to £20m across the year as a whole.
Savings made so far have included the consolidation of pre press operations into Liverpool for the group’s regional titles.
Trinity Mirror’s 19.7pc share of fellow regional publisher Local World yielded a £3.1m profit for the period, suggesting LW made a profit of around £15.5m in the first half of the year.
In its annual results for 2014 published on 30 June, Local World announced a pre-tax profit of £15.8m in 2014, up from £12.7m in 2013.