If newspapers are dying, it’s been a slow, painful sickness – as evidenced by the latest figures from Mirror publisher Trinity Mirror, which saw a 65% drop-off in pre-tax profits in the first six months of the year, while total underlying group revenues fell by almost 7% to £339m. The group’s chief exec, Sly Bailey, hinted that one of its only hopes now is the upsurge in circulation its Sunday tabloid titles should get as a result of the closure of the News of the World.
Indeed: Bailey says she has high expectations for the potential of papers like the Sunday Mirror and the People, both of which are perfectly positioned to fill the gap left by NotW. The good news is that year-on-year circulation figures for all its nationals rose by 4% in July – particularly the Sunday Mirror, which saw its circulation rocket by 55% to 1.78m copies following the closure of the NotW in July. Sadly, though, that wasn’t reflected by ad income, which fell by 15%.
This isn’t just bad news for the good people at Trinity Mirror, though. Because while advertising was one of the biggest casualties of the recession, ad revenues in the press had, until recently, begun to rally somewhat: in fact, figures by the Advertising Association showed that in the first quarter of this year, national newspapers was one of the strongest-growing markets. Yesterday’s results from News Corp appeared to agree, with its publishing arm almost doubling its operating income.
So there are some questions to be asked there. Although it’s very likely external factors have been at work: in fact, given advertising is often used as a bellwether for the economy as a whole, this may be another symptom of what analysts are fearing could turn out to be a double-dip. We can see the headlines now…