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Publisher reports revenue decline in 2018 as annual figures revealed

SimonBax-e1397149503811Archant’s chairman has warned shareholders it will be “some time” before the company sees any benefit from initiatives designed to help regional publishers after the company revealed a drop in revenue last year.

The company’s annual results have showed total revenue decreased on a like-for-like basis from £95.5m in 2017 to £87.2m in 2018, with advertising and other revenue, including digital, down from £70.9m to £64.2m.

Operating costs fell from £92.5m in 2017 to £84.6m last year, but with revenues also down, operating profit fell from £4.7m to £2.7m.

Circulation revenue dropped from £24.6m to £23m, including a drop of 6.6pc in newspaper circulation revenue to £16.4m, while overall digital revenues increased from £8.2m to £9.3m.

The percentage of print readers taking out a subscriptions was up to 57.2pc from 55.5pc, while the number of web page views had increased from 33.8m to 34.4m – although the number of monthly unique visitors fell from 8.7m to 8.5m.

In an accompanying letter to shareholders, which has been seen by HTFP,  chairman Simon Bax wote: “In my letters to you over the last three years I have consistently spoken about the challenges of the industry we operate in, the nagging persistence of the pension deficit and the need to move more quickly into the digital world, as patterns of media consumption and advertiser marketing mix have moved away from our traditional products.”

“We are in a race to transform the business to ensure that we have a viable long-term future providing local content to our readers and connecting local businesses with their customers. Our content is core to our business and differentiates us from many other providers of commercial marketing services.”

Simon also addressed the recommendations of the Cairncross Review into the future of news provision, including proposals to examine the Google and Facebook’s relationship with publishers, as well as the BBC’s role in the online provision of news.

“Whilst supportive and attempting to level the playing field for quality publishers, we believe it will be some time before tangible benefits accrue to us. And it is unlikely to materially help our business in the short to medium term,” he wrote.

Simon also mentioned the company is still “actively reviewing disposal options” for its Prospect House headquarters, in Norwich, and that there was “not yet enough certainty around future trading” to proposed a dividend for shareholders.

6 comments

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  • April 8, 2019 at 11:06 am
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    So presumably he think closing branch offices,editions and axing more photographers will improve things.

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  • April 8, 2019 at 11:30 am
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    Fair play to Archant for actually quantifying digital revenues, but it just goes to show that they barely make up the overall fall over the previous year. There comes a point when surely there has to be a cull of senior management/suits after all the various photographers/subs/district offices have been dispensed with. That pension-fund deficit has got to be dealt with somehow.

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  • April 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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    Cull of senior management? We’ll have none of that subversive talk around here. It will only upset Frank Lee.

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  • April 9, 2019 at 10:21 am
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    Bad performance after bad performance,sales slump after sales slump and another year of no dividend for the shareholders yet those responsible for this latest set of appalling figures remain in positions to carry on overseeing the rapid decline, why?
    Just how bad do things have to get before changes at the top and at middle management level are made?
    They’ve all had long enough to implement strategies to halt the decline and stabilise and grow the business but still the losses and underperformance continues with no clear plan for the future other than withdrawing from communities or waiting for outside forces to influence their fortunes.
    Change is needed before any last hope of survival goes but we all know resignations or removals come with a price which they’ll not want further damaging the bottom line however letting those in senior positions remain will be more costly and damaging to what remains of the business in the long run.

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  • April 9, 2019 at 10:37 am
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    If the chairman believes withdrawing from county towns and replacing closed branch offices with a lone community home worker will bring back the thousands of lost readers and is “… providing local content to our readers and connecting local businesses with their customers” then it shows just how misinformed or out of touch with the reality of the situation he really is,however if he believes those like Frank Lee, rather than the vast majority of staff who can see the ongoing decline and real reasons first hand ,he will believe everything is rosy, the papers and websites are great,everybody’s happy with their roles and future career prospects and have full confidence in those above them.
    I agree, it’s time for wholesale changes after the way they’ve dismantled the company and devalued its products over the past two or three years to an almost irrecoverable level.

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  • April 10, 2019 at 11:18 am
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    Perhaps if the chairman spoke to businesses who no longer advertise or the public who no longer buy the papers,the former editorial and commercial people now succeeding elsewhere or even, god forbid ,the staff themselves, rather than the usual yes men/women who will only tell him what they want him to hear,he would get a more accurate view of how things are and where the real issues,and therefore, solutions lie.

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