Postmedia Network Canada Corp. has managed to grow its digital revenues despite strong headwinds, but needs to build on that momentum quickly, according to chief executive officer Andrew MacLeod.
“We are very proud of the results, because it is incredibly difficult to grow digital revenue, and it is an enormous achievement for us to have done it for close to three years now,” said MacLeod at the company’s annual general meeting at its head office in Toronto. Postmedia owns the National Post.
“You need to be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but also recognize that you need to grow at an accelerated rate,” MacLeod said.
In early January, the company had reported revenues of $156.7 million in the first quarter, an 8.5 per cent decline, due to a 16.8 per cent decrease in print advertising revenue and a 5.8 per cent decline in print circulation revenue. Digital revenue increased 8.7 per cent, with digital advertising revenue up 11.1 per cent.
“We anticipate the print advertising market to remain challenging and expect current trends to continue into fiscal 2020,” MacLeod said in an interview.
The company will continue to focus on its digital strategy to offset the decline in print revenue, MacLeod said, by investing in content-specific verticals such as The GrowthOp, Postmedia’s cannabis news site, and The Logic, a subscription-based website focused on the innovation economy that Postmedia holds a minority interest in.
“Podcasting is also a new medium that we need to be hugely present in,” the CEO said.
Postmedia expects to receive $7 million from the federal government’s journalism tax credit for the period of Jan. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2019, an amount that MacLeod called “hugely important in supporting the cost of journalism.”
Based on current staffing levels, the media company that represents more than 140 brands across multiple print, online, and mobile platforms, expects its annual federal journalism tax credit to be between $8 to $10 million for the next fiscal year.
“Anything that provides a tailwind in our financial model, in the face of incredibly strong headwinds when legacy revenue for all major players is falling between eight to 11 per cent annually, is welcome. I certainly applaud the government for their support,” MacLeod said.
Wednesday’s AGM kicked off on a sombre note, as Paul Godfrey, executive chairman of the company, honoured Christie Blatchford, a longtime National Post columnist, who lost a short battle to cancer on Wednesday morning. Blatchford was 68.
“The world of journalism lost a legend. We at Postmedia lost a member of our family,” Godfrey said. “Christie Blatchford, a powerful force for truth — and I believe, the greatest Canadian journalist of our era — is gone. She was tough and sentimental, determined and thorough.”