Future Buoyed By Digital Sales Traction

Despite a first half-year that was unchanged from 2009, Future’s income from digital rose 14 percent to £13.6 ($21.65) million in the year ended September 30, after being boosted by a second half which was 30 percent better.

CEO Stevie Spring writes: “I’m very excited about the progress Future is making in digital. Encouragingly, we’re seeing our new digital revenue streams begin to gain traction.”

She says gadget site TechRadar revenue is 58 percent up from last year and heading for its best quarter.

“Sales of digital versions of our magazines have increased tenfold in the six months to July 2010.” The one-off, free iPad tester edition of MacLife has clocked 400,000+ downloads (surely cause for a regular run?).

Future isn’t giving figures for FirstPlay, its £0.99 ($1.58)-a-week PlayStation magazine that’s delivered via PlayStation Store, except that it “moved in to profit”. In truth, FirstPlay is lightweight compared with online content from rivals and with on-console equivalents that, on Xbox 360, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) delivers itself for free.

“Videogaming still accounts for 21 percent of our UK revenues and remains one of the world’s most popular leisure pursuits. Stepchange improvements in storytelling, production values and consoles (for motion and 3D) should help increase our reach as increasing numbers of casual gamers evolve into our core target.”

Group-wide Future sales dipped one percent from last year to £151.5 ($241.13) million, and Spring says consumer confidence remains fragile, though sales were five percent up in the year’s second half. “Copy sales and advertising were both down only low single digits as quarter on quarter trends improved” (two and five percent respectively.

“We understand that our customers want different content in different formats. In print, it’s increasingly about collectable artefacts … Our special ‘Classic Rock presents Slash’ fanpack, sold out at a cover price of £14.99 ($23.86). Online, musicradar.com’s visitors spend on average about eight minutes on the site; twice MTV.com’s average dwell time.

“After an exceptionally tough 2009, our focus during the past year has been on changing our business to fit that changed environment. We’ve made good progress. And can now move forward.”