Earnings: Trinity Mirror Quarterly Results Down Despite Digital Growth

Digital revenue at newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror ballooned in the first four months of the year – but not enough to halt yet another drop in overall advertising income. Revenue at the national titles division, which publishes five newspaper sites and a listings directory, grew 30.7 percent in the quarter, while the regionals division, which publishers 45 local newspaper websites under the icNetwork umbrella, were up 24.8 percent. This includes acquisitions, however. (Release).

Trinity Mirror chairman Sir Ian Gibson is due to tell an annual general meeting today the company “has confidence that 2007 performance will be in line with expectations”. But that isn’t saying much – group advertising revenue fell 2.4 percent in the quarter, or three percent excluding those digital acquisitions. It’s another quarter when Gibson has had to report the advertising environment “remains challenging and volatile”.

Regional ad revenue dropped 2.3 percent (3.3 percent excluding digital acquisitions), with the largest losses taken from motoring classifieds and recruitment ads (11.4 percent and three percent respectively). Property classifieds were up – probably due either to a strong housing market or stronger performance of its online property classifieds engines. The company will be worried by a four percent dip in national ad revenue – while its Scottish titles saw a 0.9 percent growth in this area, UK publications’ ad revenue fell by 5.8 percent. Circulation is down, too – 0.5 percent overall, 0.8 percent in the regions, 0.7 for UK nationals; but Scottish titles and sporting papers showed a 0.3 percent up-tick.

It all points to continuing tough conditions in the print sector, while digital props up the bottom line. But, aside from strong digital gains, commercial media rivals DMGT and GCap each reported a turnaround in their core newspaper and radio ad revenues in March. Trinity Mirror is embarking on an initiative to add more video and audio content to its regional newspaper website network, much of which has not seen a new lick of paint in a few years, after appointing a head of multimedia last summer.