Scotsman owner focused on ‘digital only model’
Owner of The Scotsman newspaper, National World, has pointed towards the end of print publishing of its titles as it transitions to a “digital only model”.
The publisher of numerous local and regional newspaper titles, which also include the Falkirk Herald and Yorkshire Post, said it is accelerating the implementation of its new operating model to restore growth to the sector and provide sustainable revenues.
The Scotsman’s average circulation for July to December 2022 was just 8,762, of which half (4,263) are over-the-counter sales.
“Instead of a digital first company, National World is taking the leap to being a digital only company.” said chairman David Montgomery.
“Newspapers will be produced on that basis rather than being the products of multiple industrial processes that should have been abandoned years ago.
“Ironically, the printed newspaper products will achieve greater quality and relevance, in part mirroring characteristics of social media but strictly curated. True to our publishing heritage we will make our small weekly papers exclusively local in all content – banishing the generic content that was a feature of previous and counterproductive cost reduction measures.”
He said National World is working with technology providers to support its implementation of the new operating model.
Re-training creative staff as specialist content providers across all platforms is well advanced and 2023 will see at least half of the company’s journalists equipped in video production.
The new operating model also requires a reorganisation of business units “away from the rigid geographical divisions” in order to nurture portfolios of related brands and also “to release the potential of certain heritage brands.”
In Yorkshire, Scotland and Northern Ireland these brands are prioritising specialisms in key topics such as heritage, arts and culture, business, environment and rural affairs and making this content available on all platforms and supporting key advertisers for the longer term.
Other regional daily titles are being relaunched in 2023 to relate more closely to metropolitan markets they serve and organised in formats reflecting online characteristics.
Mr Montgomery said the group is making progress towards sustainable profitability and is pursuing acquisition opportunities.
Acquisitions will focus on online content and managerial digital capability as illustrated by the Group’s acquisition of independent digital football publisher ScoopDragon and video-first content innovator, NewsChain, which focuses on news, celebrity and football.
“The group has delivered adjusted EBITDA of £9.7 million, digital revenue growth of 26% and continued to invest in the transition to a digital only model,” it said in annual results.
Despite a slip in revenue, due to economic conditions, the company said it had met its EBITDA target for January and February. Trading is expected to remain challenging for the first half.
The group intends to pay a final dividend of 0.5 pence per share.