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Newsprint gets vote of confidence

News, 18 February 2016

LONDON: Johnston Press, the UK regional newspaper publisher, expects to tap into national advertising revenues through its purchase of the i news title, and the chief executive is optimistic that print news has a bright future.

"I've always had a fundamental belief that video didn't kill the radio star," Ashley Highfield told City AM.

"New technology comes along, but it rarely wipes out what came before it. I think people will still want print for many years to come," he said.

Accordingly, he plans to extend the distribution of the print edition into those parts of the UK not currently covered and, at the same time, to include smaller retailers.

His confidence is in marked contrast to the approach of the i's erstwhile owners: ESI Media has abandoned print for its flagship national news brand, The Independent, which is to become digital-only.

Editor Amol Rajan told readers: "The simple fact is, there just aren't enough people who are prepared to pay for printed news."

Or not £1.40 a day: the most recent ABC figures show The Independent had an average daily circulation of 56,074 in December 2015, compared to 268,431 for the i (cost 40p).

Highfield's views on the future of print do not preclude investment in digital, starting with the i.

"We haven't had to pay for a dedicated website because there hasn't been one," he said. "We see that as having great opportunity for growth."

Underpinning the purchase is a desire to build a regional publisher into a national one; the opportunity to buy the i, Highfield explained, effectively bypassed the need to buy a number of smaller regional media groups.

"We are in one quarter of the country and we want to be in all of it, not least because this is a scale game and we wanted to go after more national advertising revenue and have a bigger train set across which to offer our digital services," he said.

Data sourced from City A.M., The Independent, Press Gazette; additional content by Warc staff