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Ireland's biggest newspaper group spent €9.3 million on redundancies last year

Advertising and cost-cutting are keeping the books balanced for the media group.

Updated 12.44pm

INDEPENDENT NEWS AND media balanced their performance last year with cost-cutting measures including €9.3 million worth of redundancies according to their 2014 results released this morning.

The company has been re-aligning its digital strategy over the past year with one in eight of the group’s editorial staff expected to be asked to seek redundancy.

INM last year settled an unfair dismissal case with former employee Gemma O’Doherty.

O’Doherty, a news reporter, was dismissed by group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae in 2013. Reports at the time linked the compulsory redundancy to her pursuit of then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan over the penalty points scandal.

Gemma O'Doherty Unfair Dismissal Cases INM group editor Stephen Rae Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Redundancies aside it’s mostly a case of steady as she goes for the media group at present.

The group’s preliminary results for 2014 were released to great expectation given the ongoing diminishing-returns nature of the newspaper world.

INM, publisher of the Irish Independent, Herald, and Sunday World is the largest player in print journalism in Ireland by some distance.

The company recently took a decision to unite its newspapers under one journalistic umbrella, i.e. journalists don’t work for an individual paper any more, but rather can be expected to write for any of the INM titles at any time.

Overall revenue for the group was €318.7 million, down 1.1% from €322.4 million in 2013, while operating profit is up 4% to €34 million.

There are some very striking figures to be found in the group’s digital and advertising numbers. Overall advertising revenue increased by 0.8%, the first time INM has seen any such growth since 2007.

However digital advertising revenue increased by 37.5% year on year, a phenomenal growth spurt showcasing the group’s drive towards digital in recent times, but also an indication that the offset was needed for declining print advertising.

Ministers unaware of bank tapes Source: PA/Niall Carson

That said, digital advertising still only accounts for 11% of overall ad revenue with €8.8 million. Paper advertising was €71.3 million, down €1.8 million from 2013.

Revenue from newspaper and magazine sales dropped €2.2 million to €105.4 million. Actual newspaper circulation revenue itself dipped by 2%.

The group’s websites attracted 11.9 million unique users in December 2014, a 37% year on year increase, and generated 82.4 million page impressions, a 27% increase.

Such figures also incorporate the performance of INM’s commercial websites, the Grabone voucher company for example.

John Stokes, media analyst with Davy Stockbrokers, rates the company’s results as ‘strong’ and ‘slightly ahead of expectations’.

“The 2014 results were impressive overall. The growth of the advertising business is encouraging and numbers can be expected to rise,” said Stokes.

Given improving earnings momentum, coupled with an attractive valuation, we reiterate our ‘Outperform’ rating on the stock.

INM’s current share price is €0.17. No dividend is expected to be paid to shareholders on the back of 2014’s results.

Earlier, group CEO Robert Pitt told RTE’s Conor Brophy on Morning Ireland that there was still plenty of life left in the company’s print titles.

“On the back of a very good set of results, there’s an awful lot more road for our papers to be sold,” he said.

Two of the group’s flagship titles, the Irish Independent and The Herald had significant losses in circulation in 2014 of 4.1% and 11.8% respectively.

When asked about suggestions that one in five INM employees believes they are subject to bullying in the workplace Pitt replied that ‘engaging’ with employees is a definite priority.

We will do everything we can to engage with our staff, speak to them, tell them what’s happening.
We had a town-hall meeting with all staff last month where we told everyone what our plans are and I thought it was a great success.
In the future INM is going to be a very good place to work as a journalist, be that in print or digital. We’re the biggest in the country, and that means we offer great opportunity.

Originally published 9.38am

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