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Trusted brands winning favour with advertisers as losses narrow with Johnston Press

Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press
Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press
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Regional publisher Johnston Press delivered results in line with market expectations with its chief executive saying that the trusted brands in the group’s portfolio were increasingly attractive to national advertisers.

Johnston Press, which owns The Yorkshire Post, delivered an EBITDA of £40.1m compared with £43.9m, driven by increases in digital, circulation and print revenue.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Total adjusted revenue was £201.2m, down 4.5 per cent year-on-year, with the i newspaper delivering an EBITDA of £9.3m.

Digital revenue was £25.9m, up three per cent and the wider group’s debt declined below the £200m mark to £196.9m ahead of crucial refinancing talks ahead of June 2019.

The group’s digital audience passed the 25m mark with overall digital traffic up by 19 per cent.

However statutory figures showed total revenue of a £201.6m compared with 2016’s £222.7m with a loss of £95.0m compared to £300.7m in 2016, down 68.4%.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: “There is no doubt that the regional and local advertising market is difficult. The national print advertising market, particularly in quarter one of this year, is strengthening, and we are seeing a shift in spend of large companies back into trusted brands and into print. I think particularly after many years of just buying programmatically where the ROI is everything and the context of where the advert appears is nothing, [that] everything from the fake news agenda right the way up to the current issues within trust with Facebook has caused a lot of chief operating officers to reappraise their marketing mix.

“You have only got to flick through The Yorkshire Post to see there are more national adverts in it.”

This viewpoint was backed up by analysts at Liberum and Panmure, the latter of which issued a buy notice on the firm.

He added: “Our vision remains constant - to be at the heart of our communities, providing accurate, relevant and timely news and information - free of proprietorial influence.

“And we continue to deliver on this, despite 2017 proving to be another tough year for the sector.

“We more than doubled profits at the i, with circulation revenue up 20% and advertising revenue up 27%.

“We grew our digital traffic across the group by 19% and our digital audiences reached an all time high of 25.4m. We posted total adjusted revenue up 1.8% year on year, excluding classifieds, which in combination with maintaining operational excellence and reducing costs, achieved profits in line with

expectations.”