Earnings: Trinity Sales Slump 11.4 Percent, Even Digital Slowing Rapidly

imageIt’s the same picture as Johnston Press yesterday – an alarming nosedive in print ad sales, and the digital cash cow is jumping off a cliff, too. Overall income at Sly Bailey’s Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) crashed 11.4 percent in the 17 weeks to October, compared to the same period last year, and advertising income including digital is down by a fifth, as the economy bites hard.

The downturn is accelerating…
— Digital grew only 15.5 percent in the last six months, compared to 40.2 percent in the first half.
— Overall ad revenue fell six percent in the first half of the year but 19.4 percent in the next 17 weeks up to October.

Regional ad sales (Trinity’s core division) are down 12 percent so far this year – property classifieds down 42.6 percent, cars down 26.8 percent, job ads down 26.6. percent, display down 11.6 percent; print circulation is more modestly down by 3.8 percent. Nationals, where Trinity publishes The Mirror, saw ad sales dip 9.9 percent so far this year; circulation is down 2.7 percent.

Digital: Though Trinity claimed a 29.2 percent digital sales hike between June and October, the bulk came from the nationals unit, up 55.5 percent, and less from regionals, up 26 percent. Yes, digital is still growing, but the rapid contraction in advertising spend is giving little regard to the web’s supposed advantages over other media.

Outlook: Trinity now says it will save £5 million more this year, through restructuring, than the £20 million it already planned to save. The strategy current strategy? “Launching new online brands to increase our audience reach.” And closing newspapers – 28 of them so far this year. “We expect trading to remain challenging and therefore remain cautious about prospects for the remainder of 2008 and for 2009.” Release.

Trinity’s investor relations department sealed Thursday morning’s conference call off to a specially selected group of analysts, so we can only assume Bailey will again rant about the likelihood BBC Local will kill local newspapers – when it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the worsening economy is doing that all by itself.