Earnings: U.K. Publisher Johnston H1 Digital Revs Up 33.5 Percent On $5 Million Web Investment

Update: Johnston CEO Tim Bowlder told MediaGuardian the company will invest £10 million ($20 million) in digital in 2008.

Original post: Johnston Press (LON:JTR), the U.K.’s number three local news publisher with over 200 newspapers and almost as many websites, reported a 33.5 percent rise in digital revenue through June 30. The company said it had focused especially on building new online revenue streams, having hired a new manager to head an online sales team and committed extra resources to commercial aspects and online development. The group relaunched its JobsToday classifieds site and said it completed a “newsroom of the future” project to re-tool premises ahead of schedule. The result was unique users grew 31 percent in the period to 7.9 million per month, with page impressions up 40 percent to 76.2 million per month.

A pure-play regional news publisher, Johnston is more vulnerable to the migration of local classifieds ads to more powerful online powerhouses. Indeed, print advertising dropped 2.5 percent (biting in every category other than property) but Johnston said the rate of decline has “diminished considerably” from the 9.2 percent decline in the same period last year. Overall operating profit dropped 4.8 percent to £96.7 million ($194.8 million), beating expectations, on 0.1 percent better turnover of £312.8 million ($630.4 million). The results were hit, said CEO Tim Bowdler in the statement, by this additional digital investment of £2.5 million ($5 million).

Statement and Financials