Archant’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.