AddThis SmartLayers

Publisher touts more paid-for online content amid digital revenue slump

Jim Mullen 1A regional publisher is exploring the idea of more paid-for online content to arrest a slump in digital revenue.

Reach plc has announced it is planning to introduce a series of paid-for email newsletters after both digital revenue and page views on its websites declined during the first six months of 2023.

Publishing its half-year results this morning, Reach revealed digital revenue for the period decreased by 16.1pc to £60.8m during the period, while page views fell by 16pc year-on-year.

The decline in views was attributed to changes to Facebook’s algorithms, reiterating the reason cited by the company for the “page view slowdown” noted in a trading update issued in May.

Explaining how the company aims to tackle the issue, chief executive Jim Mullen wrote in today’s update: “We’ve made good progress on the development of curated marketplace revenues, signing new data partnerships with Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

“The Google Ad Exchange agreement is the first time that publisher data has been used to enrich the value of ad slots on the open market, while the Amazon deal makes Reach the first external partner hosting ads with first party data signals on behalf of the site’s own ad sales operation.

“We’re also exploring opportunities for direct customer revenues, testing a metered paywall on the MEN app and introducing a series of paid-for newsletters.”

Jim, pictured, went on to note Reach is continuing to explore how artificial intelligence “could benefit our business”.

He added: “We are in the early stages, focusing on the ways that tools can improve efficiency, for example in interrogating data and information gathering, potentially freeing up time to produce more content.

“While we do this work, it’s important we maintain trust with our audience and advertisers, which is why we’ve also been establishing editorial principles for transparency, for example, making clear to readers when AI tools have been used in creating a story.”

The results come after Reach undertook multiple rounds of cuts in the first half of 2023, affecting hundreds of journalists across the group.

Overall revenue for the period was down 6.1pc to £279.4m, while operating profit was down by almost a quarter to £36.1m.

Print revenue was down overall by 2.7pc to £217.3m, with print advertising revenue dropping by 18.3pc to £37m, although there was a slight 2.4pc increase in circulation revenue to £155.4m.

Added Jim: “The ongoing resilience and predictability of print underpins continued investment in a strong digital offering, with circulation revenue growing and newsprint costs starting to decline.

“Cash generation is supported by a focus on driving efficiencies, with cost reductions on plan and expected to support a stronger second half performance.

“We expect full-year profits for 2023 to be in line with the current market consensus. The business has a strong balance sheet which supports long-term growth, dividend and pension commitments.”