National World aims to halve the number of news sites

The owner of regional publisher JPIMedia has revealed he was looking to halve the number of news websites in operation when he took over the business last year.

National World, which acquired JPIMedia in January 2021, made a profit of £9.3million in its first year of operation in its annual results for 2021 published today, with aggregate revenue of £86million of pounds sterling.

Today’s figures reveal that the group’s websites received over 110 million page views per month on average and 36 million unique users per month on average over the year.

But the report also reveals an aspiration to halve the number of news sites from the 139 in operation when the company was purchased to around 70 by the end of this year.

The report lists a series of “key initiatives” that have been implemented over the past 12 months since the takeover of JPIMedia.

They include “enhancing and consolidating existing news websites to increase attention and reach in local markets. By the end of 2022, we plan to halve the 139 sites that were in operation when the business was acquired.

News websites that have already seen such consolidation include those of Belper News, Ilkeston Advertiser and Ripley and Heanor News, all of which now fall under the Derbyshire Times online platform.

As well as consolidating smaller websites, the group invested £2m in launching seven new ‘metro’ sites under the ‘World’ brand.

The report states: “The company has broken free from the traditional geographic restrictions of regional publishing by expanding its footprint across seven major UK metropolitan centers and nationally with the launch of eight ‘global’ brand sites.”

Its new “national online newspaper”, nationalworld.com, is now its highest-ranking brand by audience, with 16.4 million page views last month.

Other key initiatives including the “delayering and flattening of management structures”, generating annual savings of £5.1m with one-time restructuring costs of £3.6m.

The report says the group now operates with six regional media divisions covering “commercially homogeneous geographic markets” and a seventh division covering “global” locations.

Today’s figures show print revenue was down £4.5m or 6% in 2021 compared to JPIMedia’s last year of operation before the takeover, with streaming revenue down down 8% and print advertising revenue down 4%.

But digital publishing revenue rose by £2.5m or 23% over the year, with digital subscription revenue nearly doubling to £1.5m.

National World Chairman David Montgomery said, “We have made significant progress in the first year following the acquisition of JPIMedia Group, delivering a strong performance and initiating an operating model transformation to build a business of sustainable premium content and sales.

“In addition to pursuing organic growth through new launches and relaunches, management is actively developing acquisition opportunities primarily targeting businesses that will enhance its digital capabilities and expand its content base.

“While the Board of Directors is encouraged by the strong start to the year and expects continued progress in implementing its growth strategy, there remains some uncertainty in the business environment, exacerbated by the inflationary pressures, particularly newsprint and printing costs, and the global economic implications of the
Ukrainian war.

“I anticipate further progress in business transformation and acquisition progression in 2022.”