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Regional publisher aims to halve number of news websites

David MontgomeryThe owner of regional publisher JPIMedia has revealed it is looking to halve the number of news websites that were in operation when it first took over the business last year.

National World, which acquired JPIMedia in January 2021, made a profit of £9.3m in its first year of operation in its annual results for 2021 published today, with overall revenues of £86m.

Today’s figures reveal that the group’s websites received more than 110m average monthly page views and 36m average monthly unique users during the year.

But the report also discloses an aspiration to halve the number of news sites from the 139 in operation when it purchased the business to around 70 by the end of this year.

The report lists a series of ‘key initiatives’ that have been implemented in the past 12 months since the JPIMedia takeover.

They include “enhancement and consolidation of existing news websites to increase focus and reach across local markets. By the end of 2022 we are expecting to halve the 139 sites that were operated when we acquired the business.”

News websites which have already seen such consolidation include those of the Belper News, Ilkeston Advertiser and Ripley and Heanor News, which all now come under the Derbyshire Times online platform.

As well as consolidating smaller websites, the group has invested £2m in launching seven new ‘metro’ sites under the ‘World’ brand.

The report says:  “The Company has liberated itself from the traditional geographical restrictions of regional publishing by expanding its footprint into seven major UK metropolitan centres and nationally with the launch of eight “World” brand sites.”

Its new ‘online national newspaper’ is now its highest audience ranking brand, with 16.4m page views last month.

Other key initiatives including the “delayering and flattening of the management structures,” delivering annual savings of £5.1m with one-off restructuring costs of £3.6m.

The report said the group now operates with six regional media divisions covering “commercially homogeneous geographical markets” and a seventh division covering the ‘World’ sites.

Today’s figures show print revenue was down by £4.5m or 6pc in 2021 when compared like-for-like with JPIMedia’s last year of operation before the takeover, with circulation revenue down 8pc and print advertising revenue down 4pc.

But digital publishing revenue rose by £2.5m or 23pc during the year, with revenue from digital subscriptions nearly doubling to £1.5m.

National World chairman David Montgomery, pictured, said: “We have made significant progress in the first year following the acquisition of JPIMedia Group, achieving a strong performance and initiating a transformation of the operating model to build a sustainable premium content and sales business.

“As well as pursuing organic growth through new launches and relaunches, management is actively developing acquisition opportunities primarily targeting businesses that will enhance its digital capabilities and broaden its content base.

“Although the Board is encouraged by the good start to the year and expects to make continued progress in the delivery of its strategy for growth, there remains some uncertainty in the trading environment exacerbated by inflationary pressures, in particular newsprint and printing costs, and the global economic implications of the
Ukraine war.

“I anticipate further progress in transforming the business and progress with acquisitions during 2022.”