National World newspapers unveils digital-only publishing ambition

Despite the digital focus, the annual results show print still accounts for nearly 79% of the group’s revenue

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National World has released its 2022 results along with plans to become a ‘digital-only’ publisher.

The company owns UK regional newspapers including The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post. In recent years, National World has been been identifying as a “digital-first company”, prioritising its websites, which include ConnectLocal, PeopleWorld and 3AddedMinutes.

The newly released 2022 results statement lays out a plan for National World to transition from digital first into digital only, stating: “Newspapers will be produced on that basis, rather than being the products of industrial processes that should have been abandoned years ago.”

However, National World’s director of sales, Tina Callcott, said the digital-only plan did not imply abandoning print newspapers. She told betterRetailing: “There is no intention of moving away from print, but there is a recognition that circulation is not in growth. Therefore, we are challenging our outdated industrial internal processes, but certainly not abandoning the papers themselves.

“By focusing on local news and removing generic content, we are improving quality and sales that we would hope would be enjoyed by our retail partners.

“Furthermore, we have acquired two weekly print titles in Northern Ireland and we are just finalising a third. We are committed to print brands, which underlines our continued investment in circulation and our newstrade partners.”

Despite the digital focus, the annual results show print still accounts for nearly 79% of the group’s revenue. However, print copy sales revenue and advertising fell by 9% and 6%, respectively, last year, and print copy-sales volumes fell even faster.

Overall, the company sold 18% fewer copies of dailies and 16% fewer weekly titles than the year before.

The company attributed the print challenges to “a downturned economy and cost-of-living crisis, not to mention unprecedented escalating newsprint and energy prices”.

In comparison, National World’s digital advertising and subscriptions are up by 26% compared with 2021.

Overall, the company saw its operating profit unchanged year on year at £9.3m.

Chairman David Montgomery said: “We are pleased with the progress in transitioning the group to a fully digitised, multiplatform premium content-and-sales business. We have identified further opportunities to improve efficiency that will underpin future investment in new products, audiences and the enhancement of our heritage assets.”

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