Online revenues dive as Johnston Press falls victim to Google and Facebook changes

Sebastian McCarthy
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Johnston Press brands include include The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and i (Source: Getty)
he share price in major UK newspaper group Johnston Press plummeted as much as 21 per cent today as the firm reported a fall in half-year revenue amid privacy changes to social media giants such as Google and Facebook.

Total revenues dropped to £93m in the first six months of 2018, falling 10 per cent compared with the same period one year ago.

The group, which owns outlets such as The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, reported a 15 per cent fall in underlying advertising revenues, while classified advertising sales plunged 28.5 per cent year-on-year.

Johnston Press, which owns roughly 200 titles across the UK, was largely hit by European privacy rules which led to algorithm changes to Facebook and Google.

However, the group’s digital audience soared to a record 27.3m average unique users per month. Johnston Press also posted pre-tax profits of £6.2m compared with a loss of £10.2m a year earlier on the back of strong sales from its i newspaper.

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A​​ccording to Johnston Press chief executive David King, the firm was hit by two problems: "The first is the group’s historical debts, including its pension obligations, which continue to weigh on our balance sheet. The second is the tough market conditions affecting the performance of our newspapers and websites."

"As part of the strategic review, the group continues to explore its options for the refinancing or restructuring of the group's debt but, as yet, no decisions have been made nor agreements reached," he added.

The news underlines the growing reliance that media companies have on tech giants, with a Pew Research Centre survey last year finding that two in every three Americans received a portion of their news from social media sites, with Facebook being the number one source and Google’s YouTube coming in second.

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