Consolidation predicted for newspaper sector

There is likely to be more consolidation in the Irish newspaper industry over the next five years, according to Independent News & Media chairman, Leslie Buckley.

Consolidation predicted for newspaper sector

“Consolidation is taking place worldwide. I think in the next three to five years, it will be happening in Ireland,” said Mr Buckley. The main point of consolidation will be through shared printing operations but this could extend to shared editorial functions, he added.

Mr Buckley was speaking to the Irish Examiner following the release of INM’s results for the first six months of the year, which showed that operating profit of €15.9m was in line with the same period in 2013.

Total revenue was €157.8m, a marginal decrease on the previous year. Print advertising for the six-month period was €35.9m, a 2.7% drop on 2013. Digital advertising was up 30% over the year to reach €3.9m for the six-month period to the end of June.

Mr Buckley said there will be significant investment in digital over the next few years particularly, “in the expertise to grow this asset.” The company was looking at developing a number of digital products with the aim of offsetting the decline in revenue from the traditional print business, he added.

The Irish Independent shed 7.2% of its circulation according to the latest audited figures and the Sunday Independent dropped 6.1%, although at 112,383 and 220,565 respectively both papers remain the dominant titles in the daily and sunday markets.

The online business has seen huge growth in traffic over the past year, with 500m page impressions on independent.ie this year. Mr Buckley said the company would continue to review implementing a paywall for its editorial content, but there were no plans to introduce one over the near to medium term.

INM’s operating margin increased from 9.9% in 2013 to 10.1% this year. The focus would remain on keeping a very tight rein on costs, “without affecting the quality of our products,” said Mr Buckley.

“We continually review the cost base of the business and we will continue to do so. We have 1,000 employees and they have been very supportive of what we have done.”

The company recently merged the editorial functions of the Herald and the Sunday World. Mr Buckley said there would likely be further mergers of this nature throughout the company.

The company’s net debt, which was €434.6m at the end of June 2013, is now €94.7m following a period of extensive restructuring.

Claire Grady has stepped down as editor of the Irish Independent and it is expected that the recruitment process for her successor will soon commence.

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