Decline in print sales and ad revenues offset by rise in digital subscriptions during pandemic
The group behind The Irish Times made an operating profit of €3.82 million before exceptional items in 2019, up 46 per cent compared to the €2.61 million recorded the previous year.
The news publisher’s turnover increased 17 per cent to €110.1 million, up from €94.4 million, the latest accounts for The Irish Times DAC show.
The figures for 2019 reflect the first full year of trading from the Irish Examiner and other publishing and radio assets acquired from Landmark Media Investments halfway through 2018.
Liam Kavanagh, the group’s managing director, said The Irish Times title itself had recorded its fourth consecutive year of rising consumer revenues in 2019, with growth of 6 per cent driven by an increase in paid subscribers.
As of the end of 2019, The Irish Times had 89,688 digital and home delivery subscribers.
“In the context of the industry we are in, the changes we are making put us in a good position,” Mr Kavanagh said.
Continued dependency on shrinking print revenues means that this transition to digital is still “a work-in-progress”, he added. “Our objective is to become less dependent on print revenues and more on paid digital content.”
Print advertising revenues continued their long-term decline last year; however, there was no compensating uplift in digital advertising revenues, which “flatlined”. Mr Kavanagh said this was “disappointing” and more work would be done to grow them again.
The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to significant “step up” in habitual traffic to the Irish Times website and app throughout 2020, with coverage of the ongoing crisis prompting readers to take out paid subscriptions at three times the rate of sign-ups seen in 2019.
This subscriber growth, together with strong print sales of the Irish Times weekend edition, has cushioned the impact of a plunge in advertising revenues across the market as advertisers slashed their second-quarter budgets.